Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

May 20, 2014

Hard-working Lewis gets WVU scholarship

MORGANTOWN — Jon Lewis of Morgantown was happily surprised while downtown last week on a mission at Christian Help.

Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia University head football coach, informed the former University High School football defensive end that he now has a four-year scholarship.

“I was excited and very happy,” said the 6-foot-3, 255-pound redshirt freshman. He admittedly worked very hard in practice as a freshman walk-on.

Lewis, who’s 19, was a standout in both football and basketball for UHS. He made the All-State football second team as a senior.

“I love playing defense,” Lewis said. “Yes, I like to be competitive out there and hit hard.”

He is a son of the Rev. Junius Lewis, a basketball center for WVU from 1976-79. The father served as a team captain for the Mountaineers his senior season.

Jon is anxious to rejoin his football teammates when they resume off-season strength and conditioning work this week. All of the gridders will be coming off a short break to visit their homes.

Preseason camp opens in August. Coaches are limited to permitted contact with the players arriving this summer.

Junius Lewis and wife Rebecca will have been married 29 years in June. He is a native of Richmond, Va., and she was born and raised in Morgantown. Both are graduates of WVU.

In addition to Jon, they have daughter Junele and son Junius III.

“We definitely were excited when we were told Jon had been placed on scholarship,” Mrs. Lewis said. “Obviously we’re proud and pleased.

“We hope he has a good summer and goes from there. We are very proud of his achievement—even if we had to pay for it ourselves.”

Her husband happened to be out of town on business at the time.

• • •

Jon Lewis’ experience reminded me that another former University High football player went from walk-on status to full scholarship at WVU in much the same fashion nearly 25 years ago.

His name is Rich Braham, who’s now a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. He still resides in the Morgantown area.

Like Jon Lewis, he was a walk-on from that same school back there in 1990. I’m told that no one else was recruiting him.

However, WVU coach Don Nehlen was very interested in Braham as an offensive tackle. Having no scholarship to offer, Nehlen talked the youngster into joining the squad.

Braham became a starter for the final three games of his freshman season. The rest is history. Eventually he was hailed by Coach Nehlen as “not only the best blocker in all of my time at West Virginia, but the best success stories.”

It didn’t take long before the terrific offensive tackle earned a scholarship and “we knew we had something special,” Nehlen recalled.

Braham started every game in 1991, 1992 and in 1993. As a senior, he helped lead the Mountaineers to only the second undefeated regular-season (11-0) in the school’s history.

Despite numerous injuries, he went on to play 15 years in the National Football League. Most of that distinguished career was with Cincinnati.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jon Lewis followed in that former UHS star’s footsteps to success?

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