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IU feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by SectionSix, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. SectionSix

    SectionSix New Member

    Newbie here. Enjoying the site. Thought I'd see what y'all thought.... Thanks, in advance, for any feedback.

    In two short years, Kellen Lewis has gone from an overlooked high school recruit bound for military school to a starting quarterback at Indiana University "destined for stardom.''

    That "destined for stardom'' tag is how Michigan coach Lloyd Carr describes the redshirt freshman who will lead host Indiana into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game with the Wolverines.

    "He's got great ability to run the football, but I think he's even more impressive as a passer,'' Carr said. "He's got a great release, a strong arm and (he is) a guy that really has brought that team together.''

    During the last five games, Lewis has thrown 11 touchdown passes, run for three more and averaged 276 yards of total offense to put the Hoosiers (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) within one win of their first bowl game since 1993.

    Lewis was named co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after Indiana's upset of Iowa, accounted for six touchdowns in a win over Michigan State and gained 396 total yards - including a career-high 321 passing - in last week's loss to Minnesota.

    Pretty good for a kid that nobody wanted to play quarterback.

    "It's kind of a funny story...'' Lewis said during a telephone conversation this week, though he didn't really sound amused to recount the journey from Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, Fla., to Bloomington. Maybe because he's been asked about it so many times since hitting the national scene. Maybe because there's not much funny about it.

    Change of plans
    During his junior year at Mandarin High, Lewis put up decent passing numbers but was injured midway through the season. His senior year, the first for new head coach J.D. Hall, the team switched to an option-based offense.

    "College coaches put him in the 'athlete' box and that's a pretty small box on any school's recruiting board,'' Hall said.

    When no Division I program would guarantee Lewis could play quarterback, he spurned offers from lower-level colleges and made plans to attend Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. About that time - in the summer of 2005 - two quarterbacks unexpectedly left the Indiana program, leaving just two. That's when former Indiana assistant coach Troy Douglas, now at South Florida, called Hall to see if Lewis was still available.

    "I sent them a fifth tape - it had the same highlights as the first four I sent, but they wanted another one - and they eventually offered a scholarship,'' said Hall, who spent 11 years as a college assistant at Vanderbilt and Connecticut.

    "The kid, to me, is the modern-day versatile quarterback that everybody looks for. He can make all the throws, he's elusive and can beat you with his feet as well as his arm.''

    "We realize how fortunate we are to have gotten him the way it worked out that summer,'' said Indiana passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. "We really caught a break.''
  2. SectionSix

    SectionSix New Member

    Forced into action
    After Lewis redshirted his true freshman season, Canada said the Hoosiers had plans to use Lewis in different packages - some trick plays, option plays or quarterback draws - this fall. But injuries to starter Blake Powers and backup Graeme McFarland gave Lewis an opportunity to play full-time in a game against Ball State, and he responded by leading the Hoosiers to a come-from-behind victory.

    "That first game I was just out there on raw talent,'' the 19-year-old admits. "That's when I realized this isn't high school and I couldn't just go out there and run around every play.''

    Lewis, a 3.5 GPA student in high school, got serious about film study. He focused on minimizing mistakes and consciously attempted to earn his older teammates' confidence. It didn't take long.

    "Kellen is different from most freshmen. From the first game he started playing, we saw a lot of poise in him,'' said senior wide receiver Jahkeen Gilmore. "As a quarterback you have to play with poise and take control. You are pretty much the head coach of the offense. When he came in and took charge and started making plays, we knew he was going to step up and make those plays.''

    Canada said the Indiana staff knew they had a great athlete playing quarterback since the day Lewis arrived on campus. It was this year's Illinois game - when Lewis drove the Hoosiers 65 yards in two minutes for a last-second, game-winning field goal - when they realized they had a Big Ten quarterback that was a great athlete.

    "I think the game really slowed down for him that day and he started seeing things during a game as he sees them on tape or on the practice field,'' Canada said. "Each week since he has improved. He's a special talent. He makes mistakes, like everyone does, but his greatest attribute is he learns from every mistake.''

    No time to look ahead
    Today, Lewis is a successful Division I quarterback just as he and his high school coach knew he would be - although both freely admit it has happened sooner than they anticipated.

    In fact, it's happened so fast that Lewis has had little time soak in his success. There certainly hasn't been time to think about what seems to be a bright future.

    "I'm just living week by week,'' he said. "With class, film study and football, I don't have time to look much deeper into my future.

    "I just want to beat Michigan on Saturday and pass my astronomy exam on Thursday.''
  3. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    Gotta say, dude, that's a good little story. Each paragraph flows into the next, every quote adds something to the story and doesn't just fill space, no shitty metaphors... Just a nice, clean story that I read all the way through without it sagging. Good work.

    Two things that bothered me a little bit -- but again, really good stuff.

    I tripped over the athlete-quarterback quarterback-athlete line. After I read it again, I knew what you meant. It's a bit of cliche, but it also stood out against the rest of the story, because the rest of the story is so clean.

    And I didn't really love the first line of the last section, the "always knew he would be." Really? They didn't have doubts when he was slated to head off to military school? If not, then I think that needs a little explanation -- how could they remain so confident? More probably, there was some anxiety there, and I imagine it ran pretty deep. Might have been good to amp that up a bit to make today seem like more of a reward -- for him and for the readers.

    I hope that makes sense. Again, just offering up those two instances as areas for improvement -- and again, they only stand out because the rest of the story is such a tidy piece of work.
  4. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Senor Seis,

    I'd go along with Mr Jones on most counts. As substance, great. My quibble: I think you cram too much into the lead. Sentence 1: Heading to military academy just a couple of years ago. Sentence 2: Taking the field on Sat versus No. 2-ranked whatevers. You go from rags-to-riches in one sentence but I think it would be bettter to establish the rags a bit more fully ... then the riches are more meaningful. It would also let you flex your writing skills and you seem fully capable of that.

    YHS, etc
  5. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    I agree with my agreeable Canadian colleagues. Solid story.

    Given more space, I'd encourage you to do as FotF suggests, and flesh out the lede a little. I think it's a very big deal that the opposing coach pegs him for stardom.

    And I'm always a sucker for a concise physical description of the subject. Even one descriptive detail gets me closer to knowing this fella.

    And be attentive to things like "left" and "leaving" in the same sentence - especially when the subtle difference in their meanings can get a reader tangled up.

    Nice. Thanks for posting.
  6. SectionSix

    SectionSix New Member

    Thank you for your feedback.

    Jones... I totally agree with that quarterback-athlete comment. I immediately regretted it when I read the story in print. I pretty much paraphrased the QB coach, but got superfluous with it. I should have just let him say it. And the "always knew he would be" line... I didn't regret that until I read your post. But you're very right... that was just lazy.

    FotF... I understand your suggestion to "establish the rags a bit more." I decided to push the military school background a little deeper into the story (after making sure to reference it early) mainly because the kid had been so impressive in his previous few games. I guess I was concerned that focusing on him being overlooked took away from the fact that he was coming into the game as an established player. Does that make sense? Is it valid? Do you think I could have accomplished both? Or should I not have attempted to accomplish both but rather stress the "rags" portion of the "rags to riches" story as you suggested?

    jgmacg... great tip on the physical description. Thinking about it, I rarely do it... but I see the value. It'll be part of my mental checklist moving forward.

    Thanks again.
  7. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr VI,

    I'll stick by my initial impression. I think some detail about rags--a lede sentence with two or three details, y'know, his bags packed, his ticket booked, resigned to a buzzcut and the fact that his chance to play Division I was going to be a long way off, something like that--will get the necessary rhythm and balance. Three beats on rags, three beats on his breakthrough in the second sentence, sentences three and four putting him at the game and the opposing coach reviewing respectively. I don't think you sacrifice anything that way, you just make his quick rise a little more compelling.

    YHS, etc
  8. SectionSix

    SectionSix New Member

    Well said. Thanks.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    I agee with my colleagues. Enjoyed it. I would have worked on the lede.

    Try to show rather than tell. If he was bound for military school, he was most likely an overlooked recruit.

    So show that. He was stuffing clothes into a duffel bag, preparing for a year in a military school, when the phone rang -- Or he was dreading going, etc.

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