Danny “Big Dan” Lewis caught everyone’s attention during training camp for Frankford High School.
He was mostly there in support of his teammates, but once Rutgers University coaches got a look at Danny Lewis, they couldn’t stop watching.
Lewis, known to his friends as “Big Dan,” attended a 7-on-7 passing camp at the school in Piscataway, New Jersey, with many of his teammates on the Frankford High School football team. And while he was there, he did a few drills. All eyes left the game and ended up on the fast lineman.
“Once he started doing things, they had every coach over there just watching him,” said new Frankford coach Bill Sytsma. “He’s running the drills and they stop watching all of the other guys and just stare at him. They were really impressed.”
If only they knew the whole story.
Lewis didn’t play football last year. He came to Frankford after stints at Fels and Thomas Edison, and had hoped to join the Pioneers basketball team. Once he arrived as a sophomore, he started thinking about playing football.
And even though he was unsure, his teammates and coaches were on board.
“Everyone would call my mom and tell her I should play,” said Lewis, who stands 6 feet 5 and weighs about 280 pounds. “I wasn’t sure. I was more of a basketball player, but I decided to try, and I liked it. I liked it a lot.”
He liked it, but he wasn’t good right away.
In fact, he didn’t see much of the field at the very start. And then the Pioneers started to work him in on defense, which was his favorite position.
But as the season went along, the Pioneers had some injuries on the offensive line, and Lewis quickly found out about the Pioneers’ next-man-up mentality. He started to work in on offense, and he was a natural fit.
“Defense, I like better, but I think I’m better at offense,” said Lewis, who lives in Germantown. “I can play either left or right tackle and I think I’ll be doing that in college. I’m going to try to keep getting better.”
This year, he’ll help the Pioneers, and an offense that will rely heavily on the run game.
Last year, they rode workhorse back Jordan Price to many victories, including a Thanksgiving day win over Boys Latin, when he went for 242 yards and five touchdowns.
While Lewis enjoys pass blocking more because it gives him a chance to use his long arms, he knows the team will be running behind him a lot.
And he’s ready to perform.
“I think we could be really good if we all work hard and make sure we all go to practice every day,” Lewis said. “We have a really good team. I know we can run the ball. I know I’m going to have to get better as a blocker if we want to win. But if I do that, I’m not just helping my team, I’m helping myself.”
Lewis knows he still has work to do.
He wants to spend more time in the weight room to improve his strength, and while he’s fast for his size, he wants to continue to work on his footwork and agility.
But self improvement is something he’s been working on for years now.
While at Fels, Lewis possessed the same talent he has now, but he admits he lacked maturity to compete in sports.
“I would get into a lot of fights and get in trouble,” Lewis said. “I would get involved in nonsense. That’s my biggest thing. I now stay away from all the nonsense. I just stay away from it because then you don’t get in trouble.
“Rutgers told me to do that and to do better in school, so I’m working hard there, too. I do OK. I know I can do better. I’m going to work harder because if I want to play, I have to do better in school.”
Lewis hasn’t committed to Rutgers and he’s had attention from other schools since his coming-out party this summer.
He’s very intrigued by playing for the Scarlet Knights because of the interest they showed in him, but he knows getting there will be a long journey.
But he’s ready to start the hike.
“I didn’t really think about playing college football that much until this, but now I’m starting to follow them,” Lewis said. “I know they’re Division I and I know they’re in the Big Ten. And I know they’re good. If you play Division I, you have to be good. I know that. I’m going to follow them a lot this year.”
But before he goes anywhere, he wants to help the Pioneers have a successful season.
Last year, the team lost in the first round of the playoffs. That’s a good season for some schools, but a disappointing one for the Pioneers.
Under their new coach and led by their new Division I prospect, the sky’s the limit. And Lewis is ready to do whatever it takes to bring the Pioneers back atop the Public League.
“I think we’re going to be really good if we work hard,” Lewis said. “We’ve been working hard all summer. We are really close. Now we just have to make sure we win as a team.”