By Chris Mackowiak
John Dunbar. Ryan Jones. Now Brandon Lewis.
The torch is passed down through Salisbury University football each season and now a new name will go under center when the opening snap is taken vs. Albright College Friday night.
With last year’s starter Ryan Jones graduating in the offseason and Lewis having starting time under his belt, he was a clear front-runner for the eventual opening this season. The Bel Air, Md. native exudes energy and positivity as he readies himself with the reigns of the offense. His head coach is nothing but impressed so far.
“He has been above and beyond what I’ve expected so far,” SU football head coach Sherman Wood said.
Wood cites his quarterback’s drive as a reason for his strong preseason.
“He is a confident person, him more particularly after having the summer to know that he is ‘the guy.’ He knew that he had to get stronger, faster, and be a leader. He knew that from the time we met in the spring. He hasn’t let me down at all,” Wood said.
Confidence should be something in the arsenal for Lewis after drawing starting time his way in 2016 when then-No. 1 quarterback Ryan Jones went down with injuries. Lewis displayed the versatility needed for the job through three passing touchdowns alongside just under 400 rushing yards during the season.
It is that relationship with Jones that may have prepared Lewis the most for this starting role. The two Salisbury quarterbacks were roommates previously.
“What I learned from him is just consistency day-in and day-out. He never had a bad day it seemed like, so he came out no matter what was going on, and he just was all business. That’s something that I want to develop into my game as well,” Lewis said.
While replacing the productivity of the two-year starter will be tough, Lewis is off to a good start after a spot start at Rowan University last season when Jones went down with an injury. The then-second-stringer threw for 58 passing yards and ran for 134 yards, including one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown.
Salisbury went back-and-forth with the Profs throughout the game, but Rowan had the final say with a 34-30 home victory. Despite that Rowan game marking the Sea Gulls’ first loss of 2016, it was a learning experience for a growing quarterback; one he keeps with him into 2017.
“I think we learn more from losses than we do from wins so looking back at it, I really take a lot from that Rowan game, and I now value every possession that we have. I’ve been preaching to the offense all year on every drive. It doesn’t matter what the defense does, how many points they give up. We need to just focus on us,” Lewis said.
Other than the intangibles that come with starting at quarterback, Lewis receives high marks from some of his teammates for his pure athletic ability.
“Brandon Lewis. Athlete. Easily one of the top-two most athletic players on the team, and he’s one of the quickest players on the team. So, if he gets his hands on the ball in the open field, it’s a problem,” junior wide receiver Sean Rowland.
Rowland is one player that will be looking for chances from Lewis this season in the air after the electric wide receiver led the team with 12 receptions and finished second with 196 receiving yards.
With most of the wide receiving core back and both starting slot backs returning, Lewis will have many choices to go with when running the triple option offense that Salisbury is so accustomed to. The offense was impressive on the ground tallying 376.7 rushing yards per game along with another 97.8 from the air for a total of 464.5 yards per game.
While it is speculation if Salisbury’s offense will reach those numbers again, one thing for certain is that Lewis will bring the energy and pep to the huddle as a leader. He believes that his main contribution can be positivity.
That positivity may find its origins back in that Rowan loss in 2016, facing adversity among turnovers and down in the game on the road Salisbury kept fighting.
“I’ve always preached next play. I just want everyone to focus on the next play. No matter what happened, you can’t go back and change anything,” Lewis said.
The 2017 Salisbury starting quarterback will take his first snap of the season at Albright College Friday night in Reading, Pa.