WPIAL Alum Q&A – Ryan Lewis

Monday, September 12, 2016 | 12:30 PM

In high school, Ryan Lewis starred in two different sports at two different schools. His somewhat unorthodox path, though, led him to Robert Morris University, where he’s now a standout on the Colonials’ defensive line. Lewis is this week’s spotlight for the WPIAL Alum Q&A.

As a sophomore and junior in high school, Lewis was a standout for North Catholic. As a 6-foot-5, 200-plus pound receiver, he was a matchup nightmare for opponents. Likewise, he wreaked havoc on the defensive side, where he had 18 sacks and 100 tackles in his junior campaign. The Trojans finished 7-4 that season, making it to the Class A quarterfinals.

On the hardwood, Lewis helped guide North Catholic to a deep playoff run in 2010-11. The Trojans went 9-1 in section play, and defeated Geibel Catholic and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the postseason, before bowing out to Lincoln Park in the semifinals.

That spring, though, Lewis transferred to Montour, but was ruled athletically ineligible, and banished from playing football. He was able to return to the hardwood for the Spartans after an appeal, though, and he picked up right where he left off. 

After joining Montour in midseason, Lewis helped the Spartans compiled an undefeated mark in section play, at 12-0. Montour defeated Indiana and Blackhawk in the Class AAA playoffs, but lost to Hampton in the semifinals.

In the PIAA postseason, though, the Spartans produced an epic run, upsetting previously-unbeaten New Castle in the second round, with Lewis producing 19 points and nine rebounds, and hitting the winning shot. The Spartans made it all the way to the state finals, a narrow defeat to Neumann-Goretti.

It was football, though, that Lewis pursued at RMU, and that seems to have been the right choice. After seeing limited time as a freshman, Lewis played in all 11 games in 2014, making eight starts. With the increase in opportunity, the defensive end recorded 49 tackles and three sacks.

In 2015, the Colonials collectively made significant strides, while Lewis continued to improve individually. Despite missing two games with injury, he compiled 37 tackles, and 4.5 sacks. More importantly, the Colonials, behind a defense that ranked in the top 25 in several categories, won three additional games.

Through two games in his senior season, Lewis had a sack and five tackles for what has been a stout RMU defense.

Ryan took time to answer a bevy of questions, including how he’s successful in rushing the QB, how he handled the complications during his high school transfer, and what advice he’d give to a freshman player.

Q: After limited time as a freshman, you have played a key role on the defensive line the past two seasons. What has been your biggest areas of improvement in that time?

A: I came into Robert Morris University with raw talent. I was nothing but an athlete when I came. John Banaszak worked with me my freshman year during practice and after to make me the player I am today. Coach Coleman has also added to my growth as a football player. I feel coming to RMU was the best thing that has happened to me as a player and a man.

Q: You had 4.5 sacks in just nine games last season. How would you describe your pass-rushing technique?

A: I feel that I am more of a power pass rusher. When you are able to mix power with speed, it’s a dangerous combination. That is one thing that my coaches try to stress to me.

Q: Despite a losing record, RMU’s defense was ranked highly in several categories last year. What are the expectations for that unit in 2016?

A: To leave off where the seniors left off last year. It is more of a passing the torch type of thing. We were 21st in the country last year, we want to be top 10, or better than 21st. We want to keep that standard going to make them proud, and give us the best opportunity to win.

Q: After just one win in 2014, the Colonials improved to four wins last year. What led to the turnaround, and do you think the team will continue to make huge strides this year?

A: We just want to improve the program. We still have a pretty young program and we want to keep making the program better and better to attract recruits to want to play here and go to school here.

Q: Have you taken on any more of a leadership role in your senior year, either on or off the field?

A: I am a leader by nature. Not perfect at all, but I have to be a leader. It hurts to be in a situation where I can lead and do not.

Q: What led to your decision to attend RMU?

A: Coach Farrison, Coach Shepherd and Coach B believing that I can help change the defense. They believed in my skill and I knew this community was home. I had to be a part of what was about to unfold in Moon Township.

Q: The football team includes a large portion of former WPIAL players, and it appears as though the coaches continue to thoroughly recruit that area. Is there a special pride among those players at RMU to represent their high school district?

A: Definitely was a pride thing! This is our city and we want to represent it with pride!

Q: In high school, you were forced to sit out for a period of time after transferring from North Catholic to Montour. How did you handle that down time and still progress as an athlete?

A: It was not easy at all. Sometimes I thought hitching a car to Mexico and never coming back. It hurt so badly, but I trust and believe in God. He had a plan for me and a purpose. That is why I had to persevere through that situation like I did. It made me stronger and a better man.

Q: You also played in some notable basketball games in high school. How were you able to excel in that sport, as well?

A: Coach Kauffman was an excellent coach. He set me up for greatness and I feel that all I had to do was listen to what he was telling me and I would succeed. And we had some great players on that team with Dillon Buechel and Devin Wilson.

Q: What is your favorite high school memory?

A: Beating New Castle down at the Palumbo Center and I was the one who hit the game-winning shot. That game was one that will forever be engraved in my mind.

Q: What is your major and ideal future profession?

A: My major is Communications with a concentration in Communications Studies. My minor is Sports Management with a concentration in Athletic Administration.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to an incoming college freshman?

A: Remember the opportunity that you have in front of you. Not many get to play college sports and would give anything to play one more play again. Also, play because you love the game and not because you look good playing it.

Q: Who is your favorite pro athlete and favorite team?

A: JJ Watt and Aaron Donald. I also bleed Black and Gold! Go Steelers!

Q: Do you use social media, and if so, which do you prefer the most?

A: Facebook

Q: What is a little-known talent you possess or unusual fact about you?

A: I can actually sing. I come from a musical family being a Lewis.

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