Addai Lewellen has stayed busy this summer working and working out heading into his senior year at Pioneer.
He said the coronavirus pandemic has altered his recruitment in football.
“It’s really put the coaches and players off schedule,” he said. “To get our exposure to coaches since we’re a smaller school, we normally go to summer camps. Last year I went to six camps and this year I haven’t been to any. This is a way for coaches to actually evaluate us in person instead of film because they see how we move and meet us face to face. Since I’m a safety and cornerback, I really don’t have a lot of footage me practicing against that because we really go up against run teams instead of passing teams.”
He added the summer between his junior and senior year of high school was going to be his biggest in regards to his recruitment. He did, however, pick up his first Division-I offer from Valparaiso University, an FCS school in football.
“It’s pretty exciting. I got a call and an offer,” he said. “They want me to play running back, I thought that was interesting. I am a running back, so I’d like to see how that would work out too.”
Small running backs have been in vogue recently in big-time football. Addai, who just turned 18 last month, is 5-foot-8, 165 pounds heading into his senior year of high school.
His twin brother, Ezra, is also a standout athlete. But Ezra will likely not play sports in college.
“He’s losing interest in football as the years go on. He’s not interested in playing at the next level,” Addai said. “He just wants to chase his dream and work with computers and graphic design.”
Addai said Ezra’s current plan is to attend Purdue Polytechnic for two years before transferring to Ball State.
Addai added that he himself will likely major in a business-related field.
“I myself like to work with my hands. I’m thinking about either going into construction or working on machines. I know I don’t need to go to school for any of that but I just love the game so much that I want to play at the next level,” he said.
To help make up for some lost time with his recruiting, Addai plans to play in the Hawaii Tiki Bowl on Jan. 3. He said the event will help get him exposure from outside the region.
“It’s just a neat opportunity. I’ve been doing yard work and other jobs for people to raise money so I have enough money to go on the trip,” he said.
Addai was a starter on the Panthers’ back-to-back undefeated state championship teams in 2017 and 2018. This past season he helped the Panthers go 8-2 in their first season in Class 2A with the only two losses coming against a strong, senior-led Lewis Cass team that entered the IHSAA Tournament ranked No. 1 in the state.
The Panthers have a strong senior class coming back and will again be one of the sectional favorites going into the season.
“I’m excited about this season. I really want to go far this year,” Addai said. “Moving up to 2A and losing in the first round of sectionals last year, I really want to prove something.”
Addai had to miss his junior season of track. He’s the two-time defending county long jump champion and is also a standout in the sprints.
He and Ezra were also starters on the Panthers’ HNAC champion boys basketball team this winter.
The Panthers just started football workouts this past week as it was the first week the IHSAA has allowed teams to gather due to Covid-19.
Indianapolis Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep tweeted on Friday: “Talked to IHSAA commissioner Paul Neidig this afternoon. Feels optimistic about first week and beyond of reopening of HS sports. Positive tests and some shutdowns of players to be expected. Will reassess next phase of reopening middle of next week.”
Whether or not fans will be allowed in attendance on Friday nights remains to be seen. The Panthers are used to playing in front of packed crowds at the Pit. They are scheduled to open the season at Lewis Cass on Aug. 21.
Addai said of the potential of not having a full crowd: “That would be really different for us players. It would be hard not to have that noise, the Friday night atmosphere.
“At least there’s hopes of having a season.”