The hiring of Bill O'Brien as Penn State's new football coach did one thing for Eugene Lewis. It solidified the former Wyoming Valley West star's verbal commitment to play for the Nittany Lions in the fall.
"Actually, it made my decision easier," said Lewis, who played quarterback the past two seasons but will be moved to receiver at the collegiate level. "I'm excited about it and I'm interested to see what kind of offense he's going to run."
So excited that the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Lewis said he is ready to tell other colleges that they are likely out of the running. He has offers from nearly two dozen Division I programs, with Oregon turning up the recruiting in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that resulted in Joe Paterno's firing.
"I'm going to probably tell some of the coaches that I'm sure about going to Penn State," Lewis said. "I'll thank them for everything they've done in recruiting me, but I'm pretty sure Penn State is what I want to do."
O'Brien's name didn't surface as a major candidate until last Sunday and he was a relative unknown compared to others rumored for the job. Lewis, though, liked the fact O'Brien is coming from the New England Patriots where he is the offensive coordinator.
"He's at a place where they win and they win a lot," Lewis said. "Bill Belichick is one of the best coaches in the NFL. He's under great people and handles himself in a great way."
Lewis only caught the tail end of O'Brien's press conference. O'Brien is prohibited from contacting him and other high school players until he retakes an NCAA recruiting exam. Penn State assistant Larry Johnson, the only member of Paterno's staff confirmed to be returning, said Saturday that he intends to call recruits today.
Penn State will host most of its 2012 recruiting class next weekend in State College. Lewis made his verbal commitment in August and didn't sway despite the upheaval in Happy Valley. Several times during the high school season he reaffirmed his pledge to the Lions.
"I'm excited to talk to him and build a relationship," Lewis said.
Lewis played receiver only a handful of plays this season, catching three passes for 24 yards. As a sophomore, he caught 26 passes for 606 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season. He is coming off a solid performance in the Offense-Defense All-American Game in Dallas, Texas.
"It was good," Lewis said. "I played wide receiver and had two catches. And I did all the punt returns, too. My first punt return I had about 20 yards on it. A lot of them I fair caught, and another I returned about 10 or 15 yards."
Lewis' football career might have one more stop before Penn State, as the Pennsylvania roster for the Big 33 Game is scheduled to be released today.