You might think with my father, brother, and four other family members either playing pro or college ball, football might have been with me since I was learning to walk.
But I never felt like it was “expected of me” to play. I didn’t even start until I was in sixth grade.
Growing up, my parents always suggested that we check out sports for extracurriculars. For me, these sports were soccer, track and field, and basketball especially. I always thought this was a great way to constantly stay trained and in the right mindset for anything I played.
Of course, when I got to junior high, a few of them started to go away. I began to just focus on just football and track and field.
During my sophomore year was the first time I started to think I had a real shot at playing in college. At that point, I had only been playing for three years, and I could tell I was more gifted than some of the people around me, but not to the extent that I would be getting college offers.
I knew there was still a lot of work to do.
Things really started rolling when I moved up from 9th grade to the JV team, and then later to the varsity team, all in the same year.
In my first varsity game with the travel team, I got two or three carries at running back. On the bus ride back, my friends were saying “You’re here now, you’re gonna make it big time.” I kind of laughed and took it as a joke, since I was just playing my role on the team.
It’s always funny to look back at those conversations now.
Even though I played offense and defense in high school, it wasn’t in my power to choose which position I was once I got to college. I just wanted to do whatever it took to get that first offer, no matter where I was on the field.
With my build and size back then, I was first recruited by the University of Washington as an outside linebacker. Arizona State actually took some interest in me as a defensive back too, so I was working towards a few different possibilities.
That next summer, I was at a “Rising Stars” camp and had maybe 5 or 6 offers at the time. I knew I had a good performance on Friday, and the next day, Washington told me they wanted to extend a scholarship.
I told the recruiter that I’d do whatever they needed for the team and accepted on the spot. It all kind of felt surreal.
Being from Washington, “UDub” was the homeschool, and the place I went to camps at growing up, so it seemed like a no-brainer.
For me, even though I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity Husky Nation gave me, things didn’t work out at Washington. It was a difficult process leaving, but I had faith in the process, eventually ending up at Coffeyville Junior College in Kansas after my freshman year.
Thankfully, during my senior year of high school, my dad got a scouting job with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was living in Kansas when I considered transferring to Coffeyville, and we talked about me joining him there. I already had in my mind that I was going to play a year and come back to D1.
I was determined to not stay away from this level too long.
At the time, Coffeyville was one of the highest ranked schools in their Jayhawk Conference, and I had the connection to the area, so I quickly committed. It was just the best fit.
This wasn’t exactly where I had pictured myself, but I knew that I had to make the most of it and that plenty of other guys had done the same thing. Having my dad nearby in Kansas kept a sense of home and support as well, so I was ready for this new opportunity.
When I got there, I realized how many other guys that were in my same situation at Coffeyville, all looking to get back to Division 1.
I became really close with guys like Jamarcus King and my current teammate Juwann Winfree there. We were all in a similar situation, looking to transfer after that season, so we instantly connected on that common goal.
By the end of the year, we had a good team at Coffeyville and finished 8-3. But I knew I knew I had bigger goals beyond that year.
When I started looking for Division 1 schools to transfer back to, it felt like I was back in high school doing the recruiting process again. Going through the process again, I knew what I was looking for, so I only took two official visits.
Visiting Utah State and Colorado, I quickly found a new home.
There was a visit to Memphis after Colorado, but Colorado was on a strict budget in areas of recruiting and commits, so I committed to Colorado when they gave the opportunity. I knew I had found my new spot.
I was extremely grateful for the new opportunity but knew I had to earn my spot at Colorado.
Getting back onto that stage was an adjustment in itself. My first game at Colorado was my first game getting actual playing time at the D1 level since I was just a freshman at Washington.
It had been a long road.
I started getting that nervous energy when I would run out for kicking or punting teams. That feeling continued throughout my first two seasons at Colorado, but this season, I don’t feel that way anymore.
The more experience I’m getting and knowledge I’m getting, the less I’m feeling nervous. Now I just want to perform.
It sounds cliche, but all the things I’ve been through have brought me to where I’m at now. I’ve been on some good teams, like the 2016 Colorado team where we got to the Pac-12 Championship – only to win five games next season. I’ve played all over the country, with teammates from every state.
But that pain of losing and the opportunities I’ve faced is what drives us to get better.
No matter what, I’m really thankful to be where I am at, playing for Colorado and with teammates that all strive for one goal. I’m also thankful for the path that got me here because, with that long road, I wouldn’t be the same person or player I am today.
And at the end of the day, I am forever grateful that I have a family that supports me, no matter what I am doing.
I can’t wait to see where the next steps lead me.
Drew Lewis | Contributor
The University of Colorado, Linebacker