Football was never an obsession for Trey Lewis.
To this day, he is not your go-to guy for any advice regarding an NFL fantasy league, though he played in the real league.
As a kid in Topeka, Lewis spent his idle time enjoying other pursuits, which worked in his favor when he became good enough as a Washburn defensive tackle to attract attention from pro scouts.
“What was always funny with him,’’ said WU coach Craig Schurig, “was he was never intimidated going to the NFL, because he didn’t know who these guys were. He could care less.’’
Lewis played from 2007-10 with the Atlanta Falcons after being named an All-American for the Ichabods as a senior, something Washburn will recognize Saturday when it inducts Lewis into its Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It’s truly an honor, but it’s kind of a surreal feeling,’’ said Lewis, 32. “I wasn’t expecting this so soon. It kind of puts some dating on my age.’’
Even when Schurig recruited Lewis while he was attending high school at Washburn Rural, football was not mentioned as a priority.
“He’d rather be doing his models and his dirt bike racing,’’ Schurig said. “He was also a hockey player, so he had more hobbies than watching football.’’
OK, that’s a lot to review. But hockey?
“Yeah, he played ice hockey,’’ Schurig repeated. “When we were recruiting him, we knew that, and thought that a big kid playing hockey … man, he’s got some athletic ability. On skates?’’
The need for such equipment, however, eventually kept Lewis off the ice after joining a traveling team.
“By the time I turned 16 or 17 I was wearing a size 16 shoe,’’ Lewis said. “To try to find skates that size in Topeka was pretty much impossible at the time, so that ended my hockey career. It’s still not easy to find shoes that size.’’
The activities Lewis engaged in were often encouraged by one of his best friends in school, Josh Gibson, who is now an accountant in Topeka. After Lewis tried to get Gibson to play football, it was Gibson who urged Lewis to race vintage motocross and play hockey.
Everything he was into, including all the throwing events in track and field while at Rural, kept Lewis from following football that closely.
Even at Washburn, Schurig remembers his dominant tackler wondering when breaks would come during fall camp so Lewis could moonlight a few hours for a paycheck.
“We’d tell him he’d be busy from 7 in the morning until 10 at night,’’ Schurig recalled. “He wasn’t going to have time to work, but he’d ask every year because he wanted to continue his summer job.’’
Although he only became interested in playing football in college when it became apparent the scholarship money would provide a nice boost, Lewis played immediately for WU.
Soon, he became immovable manning the defensive interior and commanding multiple blockers. On occasion, Lewis would get moved to end to defend a certain scheme run by an opponent, yet was always content to move back inside.
“I liked it in the trenches where it was crowded and a little rougher,’’ he said. “I helped them out at end, and even tight end, and a few other Renaissance positions where they needed me, but definitely my comfort zone was inside. I could do it on the end, but that was a lot of space for a big boy like me to cover sometimes.’’
As a junior in 2005, Lewis was truly growing dominant. He was completely disruptive while recording several sacks as Washburn fueled its MIAA title run by defeating Northwest Missouri State, one of the few other schools Lewis considered for football.
“After that game I remember not being able to walk or move,’’ he said.
NFL scouts remembered that performance, and how Lewis moved blockers.
When Washburn conducted its Pro Day following Lewis’ All-America season as a senior, several teams came in to time and test Lewis. One scout was former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, who was working with the Packers then and served as spotter while Lewis pressed iron on the bench.
Not that Lewis knew any of the scouts. He barely recognized the logos on their shirts.
“I’m the worst sports fan,’’ he said. “If you want to talk football I’m probably the worst guy to deal with, because my IQ in the game ends really quickly after the defensive line.
“After that, I don’t even pretend to know what’s going on. I did watch the Super Bowl with Atlanta this past year, but that was the last game I watched and needless to say, I was a little disappointed.’’
His inattentiveness, however, worked in Lewis’ favor after he was picked by the Falcons in the sixth round, still the highest selection for any football player drafted out of Washburn.
“To be honest, I was probably a little more scared about my first couple of practices at Washburn. After that, no,’’ Lewis said.
“There definitely wasn’t any intimidation from the credibility some of those guys already earned. I just didn’t know about them. You can’t be afraid of someone’s speed or someone’s strength if you don’t know it. I was never awed by anybody because I didn’t know anybody.’’
That doesn’t preclude Lewis, who works in IT for Advisors Excel, from keeping tabs on the Ichabods. When he visits with WU players, his message, said Schurig, is always the same — be dedicated in class and never take a play off in football.
Never avoid a chance either to try something different.
That much, Lewis’ wife, Ana, picked up on. She was motivated to look into something in a size 16 for her Renaissance man.
“She got me skates around Christmas last year and I went up to the Expocentre,’’ Lewis said. “I could still skate and I didn’t have to have a stick in my hand. Like riding a bike, I guess.’’
Or, in his case, a dirt bike.
Contact Kevin Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.