Lewis making early strides
by Brandon Gullicksrud, Sports Editor
Adjusting to the life of a college student at the University of Wisconsin can be a difficult transition for any incoming freshman.
Making new friends, getting acclimated to unfamiliar surroundings and just finding your way around the Humanities building can all be daunting tasks while taking the step from the comforts of high school to the daily routine of an undergraduate.
But for 17-year-old Sean Lewis, this transition has a few additional twists.
That’s because Lewis is not only adjusting to the day-to-day responsibilities of life on campus, but is also doing it a semester early and making the transition while vying for a spot on the 2004 Wisconsin football team.
“Sean Lewis, for a true freshman coming in, I think is showing great maturity and poise,” said UW quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton. “The biggest thing I worry about is if you’re the in-between guy, and if you’re not mature, that’s a tough situation. The freshman guys have all clicked up, the older guys are older. But he’s really handled that, he’s really fit in well and he’s doing a good job.”
Horton said most guys Lewis’ age are deciding on the girl they’re going to take to the prom, not studying for midterms or learning the intricacies of a college-football playbook. The young gunslinger from Oak Lawn, Ill., however, has made the most of his time on campus and looks at his situation as an opportunity to get a jump on his collegiate career — both on and off the football field.
“I think [already being on campus] is going to help me immensely, especially with my academic stuff, because I’m already going to have 18 credits done by the time fall starts and my class gets here,” Lewis said. “As far as from a football standpoint, just getting to know the guys, getting to know the lay of the land and how things work and what’s expected, I think it’s going to be a huge advantage.”
Lewis, whose 6-foot-7, 217-pound frame give him a size advantage over the typical signal caller, closed out his prep career as HL Richards High School’s career passing leader (3,131 yards and 39 touchdowns) and was rated among the top 10 players in Illinois by Rivals.com following his senior year.
According to Lewis, a key to carrying the success he experienced in high school over to UW will just be getting used to the speed of the college game.
“Every player who comes in has to adjust to the speed, the quickness and how fast you have to react to things,” Lewis said. “As far as the plays are concerned, knowing your drops, knowing that you have to plant and throw, plant and throw. In high school, with my arm strength, I’d be able to get away without something like that. But with these athletes up here you can’t, so everything has to be done on timing — knowing what you have to do and when you have to do it.”
Helping Lewis with his timing, reads and overall transition to the college game has been UW sophomore and recently named starting quarterback John Stocco.
“Stocco and I are roommates, so me and him go over plays every night,” Lewis said. “And if I have any questions, he’s more than willing to help me out … everyone has just welcomed me with open arms, helped me watch films and things like that. They’ve helped me get an understanding of what I need to know to execute the plays.”
The Badgers are just a few weeks into their spring practice schedule, but Lewis has already impressed the coaching staff with his maturity level and intelligence.
“Just being able to step into the huddle, command respect, being able to verbalize the play and getting up to the line of scrimmage to run it, I think for an 18-year old kid coming in from high school is a tough deal,” Horton said. “But he’s handled that very well. He was a 4.0 student coming out of high school, so you know he’s got smarts. And his maturity level, he seems like an older kid. Those things have weighed in his favor, and I think he’s just done a remarkable job.”
Lewis won’t actually turn 18 until Sunday, but Coach Horton’s assessment still speaks volumes about how impressed the coaching staff has been with UW’s youngest signal caller.
As for Lewis himself, football has just been another of his many transitions.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’m now getting a basic understanding of the system,” Lewis said. “At the beginning, my head was just spinning, but now I feel like I have a better understanding of what’s going on.”