He’s not the biggest guy on the team. Nor is he the fastest.
His stature alone doesn’t allow him to be the strongest.
He’s not the most experienced player on the roster, either.
Several of his teammates have set more school records and accomplished more feats during their collegiate careers.
But there’s no doubt who's the leader of the UL Ragin' Cajuns football team. It is junior quarterback Levi Lewis.
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A year ago, Lewis was edged out by Andre Nunez in the race to be the first starting quarterback in the Billy Napier era.
But every indication is that the Baton Rouge native will be the first full-time starting quarterback under Napier.
“When he speaks, people listen,” senior receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley said of the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Lewis.
UL’s head coach firmly believes in a modified two-quarterback system, and Lewis played his part last season, playing in certain predetermined situations. He completed 37 of 59 passes for 585 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions.
“The big thing is I don’t think we have tons of limits with him, which is a bonus for us,” Napier said. “He’s got tremendous arm talent. He’s been very accurate so far in training camp, and then he can run. The only thing he’s lacking is height. He (has) some stature to him. He’s about 190 pounds now. We’re very pleased with Levi, his skill set and what he brings to our offense.”
At the quarterback position, however, Napier said the No. 1 ingredient has to be leadership. Lewis may technically be a junior on the field, but he’s already in graduate school.
“He’s kind of a like a little big brother,” Bradley said. “I’m older than him, but the leadership he shows — it’s like he’s older than me. He’s a great leader. He takes charge when needed. He’ll talk to you and keep it real with you.”
And Lewis' influence ranges farther than just the wide receivers.
The big guys up front admire him, as well.
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“Everything he does is leadership-minded,” said senior guard Kevin Dotson, the most seasoned (and likely the strongest) player on the team. “He’ll talk to you privately; he’ll talk to you in the huddle just making sure everybody understands what we need to get done.
“Even in runs, he’ll try to motivate you to keep going. Everything he does keeps you motivated. Going off of last year, I knew what he can do. I know he can make it happen when it needs to happen.”
Lewis has also made an impact on defensive linemen.
“When I first got here, Levi was my roommate,” sophomore defensive tackle Zi’Yon Hill said. “He humbled me a lot. We had a lot of long talks. I feel like Levi is one of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve ever seen in my life. His IQ is very high. He stays up. Film is his main thing. When I look at Levi, I feel like his IQ is what gets me every time.”
Senior linebacker Jacques Boudreaux, watching from the other side of the ball, has admired Lewis’ rise to a leadership role.
“Levi has taken tremendous strides from a leadership standpoint,” Boudreaux said. “He’s QB1 right now. From a mental standpoint, I think that helps him out a lot. He comes to work everyday like he’s not QB1. He just puts down the ball and just plays.
“What people don’t see behind the scenes is Levi is a real student of the game. He’s always in there watching extra film, studying everything. He studies us, too.”
Even the strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke has a great story to tell about Lewis.
Achieving goals is what UL redshirt sophomore running back T.J. Wisham was trained to do.
Let's say Bradley is in the weight room, and he does 295 pounds on the power-clean. If Lewis is there, too, he has to take on the same challenge.
“Levi’s not going to leave that weight room until he hits it,” Hocke said. “In fact, there were multiple weight sessions where we finished the group, but Levi’s got that chip on his shoulder because he didn’t hit a number that he wanted to hit, and he’ll stay in that weight room until he hits that number.
“That just sort of speaks about the way he’s wired, the way he competes. He’s a tenacious competitor.”
And certainly Napier, who was a college quarterback himself at Furman, has also seen Lewis’ expert leadership skills in action.
Early in preseason camp, Napier showed the Carolina Panthers’ Hall of Fame video on former UL quarterback Jake Delhomme.
“The common theme that I think those people respected about Jake as that he was real. He was aggressive in his approach, he was a great teammate and certainly he had a certain level of belief,” Napier said. “People around him just thought it was going to happen. I think you need that.
“How do you create that? You create that by preparing the right way, having an outstanding work ethic and then confidence comes with that. We certainly have that in Levi Lewis.”
Once the team hits the field, however, leadership skills only take an offense so far.
Napier is convinced Lewis ready to take that next step in terms of execution.
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“The big thing is second year in the system, he’s processing better,” Napier said. “He’s more familiar not only with what we’re doing, but I think he has a bigger grasp of what the defense is trying to do. Understanding the weak spots in the defense and what the defense is giving him. Certainly he’s always been a great athlete. He’s always been a great leader. He has the intangibles. And really has the arm talent.
“The big thing for him is he’s much more effective as a pocket passer, getting the ball out of his hand. He’s much more accurate.”
In Lewis’ mind, it’s a matter of focusing on the details.
“Anticipating throws and seeing things a lot quicker, just being more confident,” Lewis said. “Just repetition. Getting a lot of reps in with my guys and just trying to create every arm angle that could happen in a game in any situation. You want to be able to go into a game and know what you’re going to get.
“On third down, in those critical moments and knowing who my guys are, knowing my personnel.”
But even there, Lewis’ leadership has prepared his offense for future challenges.
“Levi and I are on the same page,” Bradley said. “We work late nights, early mornings — any time he’d call I’d show up. He would text me and I would get the rest of the wide receivers and we’d go there and throw with the rest of the quarterbacks. We all have good chemistry.”