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Roderick Lewis: “The Improbable Prospect”

By Barry Every
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As a junior the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Lewis anchored the offensive line while recording 32 tackles, seven TFL’s, four QBH’s and one sack from his defensive end/tackle position.

One doesn’t consider winning ways and top end high school football prospects when thinking of Hazlehurst (Ga.) Jeff Davis. As a matter of fact the Yellow Jackets did not make a single postseason appearance from 2001 through 2016. In that period Jeff Davis has only won six or more games once. They also produced just one DI level player, James Earl Cray who signed with fledgling FBS program Troy University.

That has all changed in a matter of one season as first year Head coach Lance Helton led his Jacket squad to a (6-5/3-4) season and a first round appearance in the GHSA-AA State Playoffs. One of the key members of turnaround was two-way lineman Roderick Lewis.

As a junior the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Lewis anchored the offensive line while recording 32 tackles, seven TFL’s, four QBH’s and one sack from his defensive end/tackle position. Lewis is also a monster in the weight room boasting a 300-pound, bench press, 370-squat and a 270-power clean.

This spring he is expanding his athletic exploits as a member of the Yellow Jacket Track and Field squad, taking part in the shot and discus.

“Rod is a good block shedder and point of attack tackler”, Helton said. “He does a great job with his backside pursuit and with development of his hips and pass rush specific moves; he is a diamond in the rough. Rod has a lot of upside on both line of scrimmages and as a returning starter is a huge component to our success this year.”

At this time his lone offer is Georgia State, but he has been on two unofficial visits to Georgia Southern, one of the schools showing keen interest in his talents. Other schools giving concerted efforts in his recruitment are Kennesaw State, Western Kentucky and Troy.

Lewis does not have additional plans on unofficial visits, but he is looking forward to hitting some college one-day camps this spring. At this time Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Western Kentucky and Troy are the four schools he plans on camping at in June.

“It doesn’t matter where I go, I just want to get out of Hazlehurst and see new things” Lewis said. “I have eight older brothers and none of them have done much of anything except my brother in the Navy.”

With a 2.4 core GPA Lewis understands he has to work just as hard in the classroom as he does on the gridiron. He recently took the ACT for the first time but has yet to receive his score.

“When we got here changing the mindset was number one, we came in with no preconceived ideas about any of the players,” Helton said.  “Roderick has taken that to heart and shows every day how much he loves being part of the Jeff Davis football Program. He handles every decision based on how it reflects on his school and teammates. Any college that gets him will be getting this kind of loyalty tenfold.”

Though Jeff Davis doesn’t have spring ball this season, making it back to the playoffs is paramount for Lewis. Let’s face it after a trip to postseason for the first time in 17 years, going back could become very addictive and even more satisfying.

“I will have to be a leader and show my teammates that listening to the coaches is how we are going to win games,” Lewis said. “Personally I plan on working on may pad level at the point of attack and being quicker with my feet. We lost a lot on offense, but have nine returning starters on defense. I am expecting big things this coming season.”

What is that college recruiters need to know about this young man’s raw talent?

“This kid dreams of performing under the Friday night lights in South Georgia, Helton said. “At this time he has only played 11 meaningful football games in his life. He is still green as a player, but he possesses a ton of upside. If he stays on top of his academics his football future looks bright. What I do know is this kid has the work ethic, motor and size to be a difference maker.”

The playoff drought for the Yellow Jackets is over and so too is the absence of having a legitimate FBS level prospect. The agricultural hamlet of Hazlehurst could soon become a hotspot for college recruiters looking an athletic lineman.

Other than on film the earliest recruiters will get see Lewis in action on the gridiron is September, 7 versus Nahunta (Ga.) Brantley County, the third game of the 2018 season.