BY COLLIN BROOKS
David Crockett defensive end Austin Lewis said that making his second trip to Lynchburg, Virginia over the weekend only confirmed the feeling the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Jonesborough-native had of wanting to play for Liberty University.
That is why the 3-star defensive end (24/7 Sports) decided to commit to play football for Turner Gill and the Liberty Flames on Sunday.
“I loved it the first time, but I didn’t want to make a rash decision,” said Lewis, who attended the Flames’ Summer Camp. “So when I went back this time I had the same feeling.”
Lewis, who held offers from Kansas State, Colorado State, Chattanooga, ETSU, Western Carolina and over 10 other schools said that his final decision came down to two schools.
“It was between Liberty and Colorado State,” Lewis said. “Of course the biggest con on Colorado State was the distance. But Liberty is moving up to FBS and I will get to be a part of something big.
“I’ll be playing a lot and they’re a very good football program. Their atmosphere is unlike any place that I have ever been.”
Liberty – which is located about four hours from Lewis’ home – became national darlings during the first week of the 2018 college football season when they went to Waco, Texas and defeated Big 12 member Baylor, 48-45. They will also be making the move to FBS football as an independent next year.
Lewis said the move-up and the coaching staff were big catalysts in why he made his decision.
“They’re coaching staff is amazing, they mostly have only former NFL coaches and players (coaching),” Lewis said. “Coach (Turner) Gil was at Kansas and Buff (Buffalo) and he had a lot of success at Buff.
“My position coach, Coach (Vantz) Singletary was with the 49ers for a while and his first cousin is Mike Singletary, so he has sent a lot of D-lineman from Liberty to the NFL.”
Gill – a standout quarterback for Nebraska as a player – took over the Flames program in 2011 and has led them to four Big South titles in his first five seasons. Gill came to Liberty after stints at Kansas and Buffalo.
Lewis said that his pass rushing is something that he says the Flames have told him they will be happy to have, as the senior tallied 100 tackles a year ago. This season Lewis has been splitting time on the offensive line, per request from his first year head coach Gerald Sensabaugh. But he said he will be excited to be playing defensive end at the next level.
“I was at the point where I would play either or, because I was liking both,” Lewis said. “But I like playing DE because I can be more aggressive.
Four games into his senior season, Lewis said playing offensive line has been a great experience for him and he enjoys the physical play that is required from an offensive lineman.
“It’s a lot of fun because you are just getting a hold of someone and trying to dominate them,” Lewis said. “So it’s a lot of fun, actually… At first it was kind of rough learning the plays and stuff, but after a while, I got it and I’m fine now.”
The Pioneers (2-2) are preparing to host Cocke County this week for Homecoming and Lewis said that it is the perfect time for him to make his decision.
“It’s great, because now I can fully focus on my team and what Coach (Gerald) Sensabaugh wants me to do. He is going to prepare me to get ready for college now more than ever,” Lewis said. “It felt like a big weight was lifted off my chest when I committed.”