HUMMELSTOWN _ Looking for an incoming freshman with the pedigree to enter Penn State's offensive rotation this fall?
Take a peek at the 6-foot-2, 195-pound athlete who gracefully performed crossing and fly routes on a soggy practice field Tuesday afternoon.
Former Wyoming Valley West standout Eugene Lewis has used Big 33 Football Classic practices as a college primer. On Tuesday, the primer evolved into a sloppy task. Pennsylvania staged the second of two practices in a steady rain at Lower Dauphin Middle School.
Lewis' idle time is scarce these days. He reports to Penn State on June 24, but he's not complaining about spending one of his last weeks as a free teenager practicing in the rain.
"It's a blessing to be out here and competing," Lewis said between practices. "It's a very big game."
Future Penn State linebacker Nyeem Wartman and defensive end Evan Schwan are also on the Pennsylvania team. The group is facing an Ohio squad featuring four future Ohio State players.
In Lewis' case, this week offers an opportunity to develop at his future position. Wyoming Valley West's quest to build competitive teams the past two seasons hinged on the number of touches Lewis received, so coach Pat Keating used his unselfish star at quarterback.
The move worked. The Spartans won 16 games in two years, and Lewis rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his junior and senior seasons.
Yet Lewis tucked and hurled the ball knowing he wouldn't be playing quarterback in college. Penn State recruited Lewis as a wide receiver, a position he hasn't played since grabbing 26 passes as a sophomore. Instead of softening his hands or tightening his routes the past two years, he directed all aspects of the Spartans' offense.
"I knew that they wanted me to play quarterback because it would help my team win and put us in some better situations," he said. "I'm all about winning. That's my main goal. I was very successful at it the last two years. I think it worked out for the best."
Lewis, the son of Rev. Eugene Lewis, a former Pitt and South Alabama basketball player, transferred after his senior football season to Wilkes-Barre Meyers. He ended his athletic career by earning second-team all-state basketball honors.
Once the basketball season ended, Lewis finally had a narrow athletic focus. He was a full-time receiver.
Lewis said he's "getting back into the groove as a receiver."
That groove might include having a major part in Saturday's game.
"He looks good down field," Wartman said. "Not many balls are getting by him in practice. I would expect a big game out of him. He looks better at receiver than he did at quarterback."
Playing wide receiver represents Lewis' quickest path toward earning college playing time. Coach Bill O'Brien's offense cultivates multiple receiving options, and only two returning wideouts, Justin Brown and Devon Smith, caught more than 10 passes last season. The preliminary depth chart O'Brien unveiled last week had eight players competing for time at three wide receiver spots.
"I looked at all that stuff and it has excited me," Lewis said. "If I go in there and try to compete. ... That's the main thing. That's the opportunity that I want."
Blue Mountain coach Mike Brennan, who is leading the Pennsylvania team this week, said Lewis might quickly shine on a college field.
"Regardless of where you play Eugene Lewis, whether it's running back, receiver, quarterback, defensive back, kick returner, he's a tremendous football player," said Brennan, who coached Mount Carmel to PIAA Class AA titles in 2000 and 2002. "I find it hard to believe that Eugene Lewis will not be in the mix at Penn State really early.
"I think he's that good. He has tremendous balance, tremendous ability and he has very good instincts. He's just a very, very good high school player, and I think it's going to translate into a very good college player. He's really that good."