Less than 24 hours after returning back-to-back Northern Illinois kickoffs for touchdown, Huskies freshman Tommylee Lewis still couldn’t believe it actually happened.
“It’s surreal,” Lewis said on Wednesday.
Lewis’ unforgettable evening began with the opening kickoff. Lewis caught the ball a yard deep in the end zone, took off, began zigzagging around blockers and defenders at his 20-yard line, worked his from the middle of the field to the left sideline, continued sprinting and finally slowed down at Toledo’s 10-yard to cut back to his right to avoid one last tackler before diving into the end zone.
As Lewis told it, the return was exactly what he had in mind all along.
“I knew I had to make a play,” Lewis said. “I was just hoping they would kick the ball to me. I just knew to follow my blocks and get to the end zone. It was a great feeling. Words can’t explain.”
If there weren’t words for the first touchdown, there may not even be sounds for the second one.
After Toledo scored on its following drive, Lewis jogged back onto the field and prepared for another kickoff.
“I was just trying to do the same things I did the first time,” Lewis said. “I knew everyone was hyping. I knew everyone was going to do their job and clear their lane. Honestly, that’s what was going through my mind. I thought I needed to do what I do.”
What Lewis did was catch the ball at the 5-yard line, hit a quick hole, broke left, out-ran Toledo’s defenders, fought through a shoestring tackle attempt by Toledo’s kicker and finished the run with no one in his vicinity for the last 40 yards.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can’t believe this just happened,’” Lewis said.
Lewis’ two touchdowns tied the NCAA record for kickoff return touchdowns in a game.
Lewis had two other kickoff returns, but neither came close to the end zone. His other returns were for 12 and 17 yards.
When he returned to Northern Illinois’ campus after the 63-60 win over Toledo, Lewis made sure to catch the game’s highlights on ESPN. By Wednesday afternoon, he had seen his touchdowns a few times.
“It was wonderful,” Lewis said. “I loved it.”