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Penn State Football: WR Eugene Lewis the Right Fit for Nittany Lions

by on March 11, 2012 11:40 PM

The last time Eugene Lewis spoke with the man who recruited him to Penn State, he knew he likely would never get to play for the old offensive assistant.

Dick Anderson called him days before Bill O’Brien was hired Jan. 6, knowing full well there was a good chance he would not be retained as offensive line coach.

“He just said, 'No matter what, Penn State is always gonna be Penn State,' ” Lewis said Sunday evening by phone. “ 'It’s not always about football.' I had a feeling that he figured [he wasn’t being retained]. He tried to keep me on the good terms with Penn State even if he wasn’t there.”

Lewis, the son of a Reverend and stepson of a warehouse worker that produces ballet gear, is one of the few high-profile recruits that didn’t bolt for the Buckeyes or another program in wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that engulfed the university in November and led to a brand new coaching staff that includes just two assistants from the old regime (Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden).

The four-star wide receiver, one of 19 recruits for the Class of 2012, was pretty much Penn State through and through — even amidst turmoil. His father, according to those close to Lewis, is a big reason why.

Eugene Sr., was once a star basketball player in the Philadelphia area who played college ball for one year at Pitt before transferring to South Alabama, where he led his team to a first-round upset of Alabama in the NCAA Tournament.

But drug and alcohol issues derailed his young adult life until a trip to church changed everything. From there, he’s been committed to making sure his two children don’t fall out of line as he did.

And Penn State, even with all it’s been through in recent months, was Dad’s No. 1 choice.

“He loves Penn State,” Lewis said. “People make mistakes. It happens. I wanna be one of those people that helps make it better.”

He will have to wait until summer camp to do so. His school would not let him graduate early and enroll at Penn State for the spring semester, his high school coach, Pat Keating, said. That would’ve allowed Lewis to participate in spring practice, get a jump on learning the playbook — which he does not yet own — and give the new coaching staff more time to evaluate his play.

Lewis, 6-foot-2, 200-plus pounds, has the body to step in right away and make an immediate impact, wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said.

“Just looking at him, with his body-type, he’s ready to go,” Hixon said on National Signing Day. “Sometimes you get a freshman who comes in that is skinny and needs the weight room, but his body and his athletic ability, he’s ready to go right now.”

Lewis played quarterback throughout junior high school and his freshman season before Keating moved him to wide receiver his sophomore year.

“I saw how fluid and just natural he was going up after balls,” Keating said. “Needless to say he just kind of blew up that year. He had an unbelievable sophomore year and dominated there. As he got older and he became so dominant in the league, we moved him [back] to quarterback to put the ball in his hands every snap.”

A negative word never came from Lewis about the move to wide receiver, Keating asserts. Lewis will join a bevy of receivers on Penn State’s roster next fall. Some have more game experience than others, though O’Brien has said everyone is given a clean slate, and on-field performance throughout the spring and summer would have more bearing on playing time than what’s seen on film.

Makes sense given the new pro-style offense O’Brien brought with him from the New England Patriots.

Lewis sees himself as downfield threat, and he already is saying things like, “If we get a good line and give [Matt] McGloin time. ..."

Like most, Lewis will get his first look at Penn State’s offense when he visits for the Blue-White Game on April 21. It would be no surprise if a few of the Class of 2013 recruits are in attendance, a group featuring four four-star players, according to Rivals.com, including Adam Breneman, the nation’s top tight end who announced his intention to attend Penn State on Friday night.

And if you’re looking to spot Lewis, look toward the ground. Then look at the shirt.

“His shoes always match his outfits,” Keating said. “Whether it’s casual wear, whether it’s a suit, doesn’t matter. He’s into style, I guess.”

Of course, he won’t have a choice on Saturdays in the fall. It’ll be black shoes, regardless if he’s wearing blue or white.

Just the way it's always been.

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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