As Terrell Lewis receives more college-football scholarship offers, each one starts to fill him with a little more pride.
At first, it was more about braggadocio; an ego boost, if you will. It was also an arrival of sorts, meaning someone finally noticed. College coaches clearly thought what Lewis had said all along. He has what it takes to get to the next level.
All of that, however, has taken a bit of a back seat. He claims seven offers from Miami, LSU, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, USF, UConn and Troy. UCF looks to be close. More will come — a lot more.
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The fresh feeling that goes with receiving your first scholarship offers has faded. Each one is special in its own way, and he says he takes none for granted, even down to the smallest of schools, but at least he’s assured he will play college football barring any unforeseen problems.
For the Ocoee safety, it’s become more than proving to coaches he can play.
“It’s just showing how I’m starting to get more attention, especially for a kid from Ocoee ... really shows I have talent,” Lewis said.
And that kid from Ocoee is hoping others from Ocoee are seeing what he’s been able to accomplish. He’s heard the chatter; been told what all the others think.
“You’ll never get noticed at Ocoee,” they chide.
That drives the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Lewis. He wants to prove that anyone can achieve his goals, no matter the uniform.
“Of course, there are always kids who say, ‘You should transfer,’ and sure, I put some thought into it,” Lewis said. “But my whole career I’ve been here. It’s been really, really rough for me at times so, of course, I’ve thought about leaving [and going to] ... Dr. Phillips, West Orange, Olympia. But I just stuck with it.
“People always say go to DP for the scouts and all that. I want to prove those kids wrong. It’s not like it can’t be done. Look at Nordly Capi, he went to play before he got in a little trouble. And Trenier Orr, he’s at Cincinnati. I want to be one of those players. They put their names on a wall in school, and I want to be part of that.”
Capi was an All-Mountain West first team defensive end two seasons ago before being accused of assault by a fellow Colorado State student last year. He’s still trying to get things back in order and may wind up at Akron this coming season. Capi can play in the NFL if he gets his off-the-field problems resolved.
Orr has been steady at Cincinnati. He was the 29th-ranked player in the Sentinel’s final 2011 Central Florida Super60 and one of the best overall athletes in the entire class. He’s in a battle for the Bearcats’ starting position at boundary corner with Plantation product Deven Drane, a junior. Orr is a redshirt sophomore.
In the spring game last month, Orr had an interception and five tackles.
“Kids see there is a lot of talent in Ocoee,” Lewis said. “So I’m trying to get them to want to stay and they can see me and what I’m doing and say, ‘Oh, but Terrell has all these offers,’ I’m doing Ocoee. I want to do this for Ocoee.”
He also stressed he’s not letting this all go to his head.
“No, I gotta come in and play, whether I get offers or not,” he said. “I still play gotta play spring ball and prove why I have offers. I play for my school to try and help put Ocoee on the map.”
He just has to keep it all in perspective, which is sometimes difficult for 17- and 18-year old youngsters being told they are the next greatest thing just so college coaches can win their trust. Sure, they all want to hear it. Who doesn’t?
But the key is understanding that once they get you on campus, you are no better than the next guy. It’s all about continuously earning your way.
“I see these kids playing college football and I always thought that was something I could do,” Lewis said. “I see where D-1 athletes come from and I’ve watched them make that transformation to the next level. It’s a different level, but I see that I can play at that level ... I know I can.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.