|ESPN.com: College Football||[Print without images]|
Like many high school football players in small towns across Oklahoma, Ronnell Lewis has often dreamed about playing for the Oklahoma Sooners.The odds would seem to be stacked against him, considering his hometown of Dewar is barely a speck on the map. Not much is there other than about 900 hearty souls who live surrounding a central business district that consists of a convenience store and a Mexican restaurant.
|Ronnell Lewis scored 40 touchdowns last season.|
Lewis rushed for more than 2,300 yards and scored a state-best 40 touchdowns last season, but he was even more impressive on defense. Playing strong safety, he produced more than 100 tackles and notched 11 interceptions as he led his team to the Class B state championship game.His athletic abilities have been showcased in a variety of sports throughout his high school career. He averaged about 25 points per game for Dewar's basketball team and was a key participant as a sprinter on the track team. Lewis said he can bench-press 335 pounds and can run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. After considering Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, Lewis decided on the Sooners' scholarship offer. It was an easy choice for him, considering that former Sooners standout Adrian Peterson has been Lewis' favorite player since he was in grade school.
Sooners coaches project him as a middle linebacker who appears to be ideal for OU's aggressive defense, much like predecessors Rufus Alexander and Curtis Lofton.When Lewis visited the Sooners' spring game earlier this season, Been was impressed by the reaction his player received from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "He made some real positive comments about him to the team," Been said. "Even though he's played only eight-man football, Coach Stoops told his guys that he immediately could tell Ronnell was a football player. And that's what he's after for his program." The scholarship offer to Lewis is extremely rare, as only a handful of players who didn't play 11-man football are currently on Division I-A rosters. Oklahoma State tackle Brady Bond has emerged as a starter for the Cowboys the past two seasons. He has gradually become accustomed to the flow of 11-man football after playing eight-man football in high school. Many recruiters were hesitant to consider Bond because of the lack of talent he played against in high school. "He's about 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds. And you can imagine how dominant he looked like when he was facing some of those 135-pound defensive ends in some of his games in high school," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "It's really hard to evaluate those players, unless they come to your camp. You're rolling the dice until you see them matched up against better talent." Six-man football was constructed in 1934 by Stephen Epler, a Nebraska high school coach who conceived a version of the game for schools that didn't have the enrollment to muster 11-man teams. Its popularity peaked shortly after World War II, when hundreds of small communities fielded teams.
Remnants and derivations of the game remain today, including the eight-man team on which Lewis played -- and others in Nebraska and New Mexico. Many six-man football teams exist across Texas.
|Ronnell Lewis has dominated on both sides of the ball in high school.|
Among the more notable former six- and eight-man players include former Houston Oilers coach Jack Pardee, the only six-man alumnus to make the College Football Hall of Fame. Other standouts include former NFL players Randy Rasmussen and Les Josephson, 1994 Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam and Dean Steinkuhler, who won the Outland Trophy as the best collegiate lineman in 1983.Despite the complexity of learning the Sooners' defensive philosophy, Lewis can't wait for the challenge. He plans to enroll in early January, hoping to contend for immediate playing time as a freshman.
"I don't think I'll get lost in the terminology or anything like that," Lewis said. "I'm just going to go up there and work my tail off so I can get ready to play. I'm excited about my opportunity."
Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Tim at email@example.com.