By MARINA WATERS
David Crockett High School football’s Austin Lewis has received many awards and honors throughout his high school career. But for the defensive end — who recently signed his letter of intent with Liberty University — the only thing he’s ever really been after was the chance to play football.
Lewis has been a leader for the Crockett Pioneers and might just be the highest ranked football player to come out of Jonesborough. As a three-star recruit and the Crockett record holder for tackles for loss in a single season, Lewis received interest from multiple colleges such as Duke, Army, Kansas State and the University of Massachusetts, among others.
But now, he’s set to join the Liberty Flames in Lynchburg, Virginia where he’ll be met with his new team, new coaching staff and what he considers the best atmosphere of any college he visited.
“People say not to choose colleges based on coaches, but of course that’s one of the main reasons I chose it,” Lewis told the Herald and Tribune . “The atmosphere of the place is unmatched compared to any other place I’ve ever been. And their facilities are amazing.”
But the 6-foot-6, 235 pound defensive end isn’t headed to Liberty without the realization of the lofty expectations that await him in Lynchburg.
“I’m trying to play as a freshman,” Lewis explained. “They’re expecting really big things out of me and I just hope I can live up to that standard, that I can produce as a freshman.”
Lewis might be ready to make a name for himself at the college level, but his name has already been etched in David Crockett High School history as a ring of honor inductee.
Lewis received the news of the honor when former Pioneer Coach Jeremy Bosken, who is now the offensive coordinator at Cleveland High School, drove roughly three hours to speak on Lewis’ behalf — and inform his former player of the high school hall of fame nod.
“That was a big surprise. I didn’t expect it at all,” Lewis said. “I was honestly emotional the whole time. Coach Bosken has been like another dad to me. It just meant a lot for him to be there and it was just really emotional, but in a good way.”
At the signing, however, Bosken was the one who appeared emotional as he told Lewis’ family, friends, teachers and coaches about the impression this young man had made on him and his family.
“Every time he leaves a camp or a practice field, he will come up and shake the coach’s hand and tell him, ‘thank you.’ It may seem silly to a lot of y’all, but I have an 11, 7 and a 6 year old in the house right now,” Bosken said. “Every time they leave their little practices, they go and shake the coaches’ hands. In today’s sports age and how crazy things are, that goes a long, long way.
“He’s made a lasting impression on my family and I wanted to make sure I got here.”
Just a few months after being named a ring of honor inductee, Lewis was also given a Proclamation of Recognition at the Washington County Commission’s Jan. 22 meeting.
But Lewis’ road to athletic achievement hasn’t been a totally smooth one; when asked what obstacles he’s endured through his athletic career, the twists and turns David Crockett High School’s football team has seen immediately came to mind.
“It feels like every year since I’ve been in high school something has happened. Freshman year we had the (Musket Bowl) fight, which made national news. My sophomore year we had the hazing which made us all look bad,” Lewis said. “Junior year Coach B left, which nobody liked that. Senior year was just crazy all the way around. I don’t really care what side anyone is on, it was just crazy. I was just wanting to play football.
“It’s actually been a blessing that all this has happened though so I can look back and be like ‘Okay this can’t be that bad.’”
During Lewis’ senior season, Crockett’s head coach was placed on administrative leave, but throughout the tumultuous happenings off of Old State Route 34, Lewis said his heart of hearts always remained the same — he’s always just been a kid wanting to be on the field.
“I’ll always feel the same about football and love it,” Lewis said. “I said earlier this season when all that was happening that I would play even if somebody’s girlfriend was our coach. I just like playing. A lot of people look at me negatively for that, I guess because I wouldn’t choose a side. I couldn’t figure it out.”
But in becoming a Division I football player, Lewis has also taken into consideration just what it means to be a David Crockett High School Pioneer. And that, he said, will always offer him a sense of pride and motivation.
“Oh it’s really big (coming from Crockett). We’ve had players like Ian Martin, TK (Hill) and with basketball, Patrick Good — the biggest name out of here probably ever,” Lewis said. “It’s just awesome to be included because I’ve been around those guys all my high school life. Hopefully it changes the perception of Crockett because it’s never really happened, a kid going to play FBS (football bowl subdivision) football.”
Lewis said he’s also hoping that younger athletes dreaming of playing at the next level realize that success can come from any place.
“It can happen anywhere. I really hated when I was younger, people would say, ‘No one has ever made it out of Crockett’, which was true. But it can happen anywhere,” He said. “You just have to work hard and be very disciplined. You’ve gotta make contacts. That’s the biggest thing that I did right. I made good relationships and met a lot of good people. That’s what makes everything work, who you know.”
Now Lewis is set to put in the work in Lynchburg while working towards his dream of getting to the NFL. He said if that plan doesn’t work out, he plans to go to law school. But in the meantime, he’s hoping to not only make a change in how his high school is perceived, but also the way in which Division I football players are seen.
“I want to be perceived as the kind of guy you can just talk to, who’s not just going to blow you off and be arrogant,” Lewis said. “I don’t really like to be around those kind of people. I’m always happy, I’m always smiling. I don’t really let bad things ruin my day. I’m a very positive person and I want people to look at me in that way.
“In some ways it’s kind of hard to be perceived in that way because there are a lot of kids who are in my position who are very arrogant. I just want to change that stereotype.”