Lewis Holding Himself, WVU Accountable

Lewis Shows Loudest Cheers Not Just For On-Field Superstars

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jon Lewis understands accountability goes both ways.

One can’t be a senior leader and not lead by example as well as vocally. It’s why the fifth-year player welcomes any criticism of his own effort, even from freshmen.

“One thing I say in practice is if you catch me not doing something right, or see me slacking, hold me accountable,” Lewis said. “Make sure we keep each other working and keep it competitive.  That’s what makes us better as a unit is making sure we hold each other accountable.”

That statement reveals a lot, the least of which is that any ego Lewis had has long been self checked. The linemen has literally seen all but nine of West Virginia’s all-time Big 12 games as a player. A graduate of University High in Morgantown, Lewis walked on with the 2013 class, just one season after the Mountaineers entered the league. By the time his career is finished, Lewis will have been a member of the team for 45 of WVU’s 54 Big 12 games.

He’s seen the highs and lows, both of the program and as an individual player. And he’s shown – and this is not understating it – the kind of selfless, team-first effort and attitude that coaches rave about. He’s played special teams and been moved from the defensive line to tight end and back. He’s filled holes and plug gaps in whatever way possible. And he’s done it while grinding through as one of just 10 redshirt seniors to spend their entire five year career at West Virginia instead of transferring in from another program.

It’s said to be the most difficult and respected accomplishment in the collegiate game, to find the fortitude to push through a half decade of bumps and bruises, hot summer days and cold winter mornings, and the toll and toil the game takes mentally and physically. There are times the daily strain seems hardly worth it, especially if, like Lewis, you don’t begin your career with a scholarship.

That’s changed now, Lewis having been granted one in April of last year after being named the Tommy Nickolich Award winner as the walk-on who “has distinguished himself through his attitude and work ethic.” Chosen by the coaching staff and presented by the Blue & Gold News, the award signifies the effort put forth by Lewis, who saw that pay off in the form of playing in all 13 games last year.

Now, in his final go around, the state native is making a push for major playing time along a rebuilding line. Currently slated to back up Adam Shuler at end, Lewis figures to eclipse the 224 snaps he played last year while serving as the veteran voice on a line whose primary players are sophomores.

“We have some young guys who can play and really want to play,” Lewis said. “They came in and they had prepared themselves to play. They have taken coaching very well and they’ve been able to quickly transition to what coach (Bruce) Tall is talking about and how to use it. They’ve matured mentally for the game.”

As has Lewis. And as the Mountaineers ready for their opener versus Virginia Tech, it’s difficult not to be impressed with what he’s accomplished in his career, and how he has gone about it. A criminology major. A fifth-year senior. And a player who has maximized his natural ability and gave all he had to the program. Sometimes, the loudest cheers aren’t just for the on-field superstars.