After directing A.C. Floras football team to two of its best seasons in program history and helping the Falcons baseball team to consecutive Class 3A baseball titles, A.C. Flora senior Jake Lewis has been selected the Midlands Athlete of the Year.
I really have to give a lot of credit to my grandfather, my dad, my brother and my coaches, for making me who I am today, said Lewis, who is bound for the College of Charleston.
Through his career as a two-sport high school athlete, Lewis has tried to give his teammates what his family has established in him.
I just try to instill in my teammates the same confidence that I have in myself, he said.
From his early childhood, Lewis felt he was being groomed for leadership.
It started with his grandfather nudging him to be a go-getter, urging him to push harder and farther and never back down. His father and older brother acted as sharpening steel, providing the resistance he needed to test the limits of his strength and boldness.
Then in sixth grade, Lewis got a taste of what it meant to be the guy.
It was Pop Warner football and I was playing wide receiver and linebacker all season, but then the quarterback got sick so I got moved to quarterback. It was really exciting, and I just remembering wanting to work really hard, and I ended up leading the team to the championship.
When he arrived at A.C. Flora for baseball as a seventh grader, Lewis looked for opportunities to be that guy again as often as possible.
Hes always had that inherent quality of leadership, Falcons baseball coach Andy Hallett said. Way back in the seventh grade, he was that kid. He wasnt afraid to lead by example, to speak up and to push his teammates.
Football coach Dean Howell said, Obviously, hes a great player, but he had the intangibles, too. Hes the kind of kid he could have helped out any team he wanted to join, the basketball team, the bowling team.
For us, he was as good a backup quarterback as there was in the state when he was young, but he would still find any other way to contribute that he could, Howell said.
Lewis opportunity to lead came in baseball first.
Early on, Lewis proved himself a dependable leader for the baseball teamas much on the field as offand Hallett came to count on Lewis. By his sophomore year, Lewis was a reliable five-hole hitter.
He showed that he wasnt a strikeout guy, and ever since hes been that kid we wanted to have up to bat when its a crucial game situation, said Hallett, who steadily moved Lewis up the batting order.
In the Falcons 2013 campaign, he posted a .390 batting average as leadoff hitter. That his team looked to him for just such a performance every at-bat made it all the more thrilling, Lewis said.
Ive always been the kind that Ive never had a problem with pressure, he said. I want to be that guy, in that situation. If it has to be on somebodys shoulders, I want it to be on mine. And Im usually pretty confident that I can handle it.
Lewis was more than happy to spend his past two seasons on the football field back under center for the Falcons.
I had the ball in my hands almost every play, and the spotlight on me, he said. People were always looking to see what I was going to do, and my team was depending on me. Thats the way I like it.
Lewis piloted the Falcons to an 11-2 record and the third round of the Class 3A playoffs in 2012. He posted 1,887 yards passing, 901 yards rushing and 34 total touchdowns and was named Region 4 MVP.
My mindset as a coach has always been to focus on the player, not the plays, and Jake was that kind of player. You want the ball in his hands when the game is on the line, Howell said.
After playing two sports for as long as he can remember, Lewis has hung up his football pads. He plans to walk on with the College of Charleston baseball team, and intends to major in business and minor in Spanish.
My teammates (in both sports) have been great all these years, and I made as many memories with them as I could, and theyre all pretty good ones, he said.