Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of stories that will profile each of the players in Penn State's Class of 2012.
Eugene Lewis was a two-time all-state selection at Wyoming Valley West.
Eugene Lewis heard the Jerry Sandusky jokes. He heard his friends ask him why he still wanted to go to Penn State after the sex abuse scandal ripped through campus late last fall.
"I just told them that after all this stuff that happened, I want to be one of those guys to help the situation and try to make it better for Penn State," the standout wide receiver from Plymouth, Pa., said. "I always believe in second chances, and believed that Penn State deserves a second chance."
Second chances are a big thing in the Lewis family.
Lewis' father, also named Eugene, was a star guard at Philadelphia's Abington High School in the 1980s. He played his first season of college ball at Pittsburgh, then transferred to South Alabama which, as a No. 11 seed, knocked off No. 6 seed Alabama in the first round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament. The Jaguars lost in the next round to eventual champion Michigan but didn't go down easily.
"(Glen) Rice tore us up," Lewis Sr. recalled. "But we were tied with about three minutes to go."
The elder Lewis was a second-round selection, the 48th overall pick, by the Utah Jazz in that year's NBA Draft, but was let go by the club in the final round of cuts. He went on to play in the CBA as well as overseas -- Argentina, Belgium, Japan, France, the Philippines, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic -- for a number of years.
Lewis Sr. had some serious athletic ability. But he also had serious problems with hard drugs and alcohol. And, eventually, he had some serious responsibilities -- namely, Eugene and his four younger siblings.
To turn his life around, he turned to the church. He became a reverend. And he worked hard to instill the faith that saved him in his children.
"My dad brought all of my brothers and sisters up with the faith," Lewis said. "If it wasn't for him, I feel that none of this would have happened."
Like his father, Eugene Jr. had skill with the roundball, but he was even more successful on the football field. A dual-threat quarterback for his final two seasons at Wyoming Valley West -- a second-team all-state pick as a junior and a first-team selection as a senior -- Lewis fielded offers from nearly two dozen major programs. He committed to Penn State last August.
"I always just loved going up there," he said of his initial decision to commit. "I loved the coaches, the atmosphere, the games, just felt really comfortable there."
His father knew a little bit about the recruiting process, having gone through it two decades earlier.
"I told him be careful of the coaches who promise you this and that and look at you as a piece of meat and make you feel good," Lewis Sr. said. "Penn State was one of the handfuls of schools that don't do a lot of extras the other schools do. You aren't going to get the extra treatment there … you had to really work for what you got at Penn State … a lot of other schools if a grade was messed up here or there, they'd find a way to fix it."
After the events of last fall, Lewis was one of the committed prospects who immediately made it clear that he was sticking with Penn State.
"My advice was for him to look at the big picture, for him not to look at right now," Lewis Sr. said. "I said, 'You're from Pennsylvania, your family's from Pennsylvania, probably when you end your career you're going to be in Pennsylvania. What better place to go than Penn State?"
Lewis will arrive on campus next month right around 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, and said he wouldn't mind adding about 10 more. The plans are to use him as an outside receiver (Lewis grew up idolizing Brian Westbrook but says lately he's been watching more of Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson). He hasn't played wideout since his sophomore year but believes his time under center will help him adapt to Bill O'Brien's offense.
"As the quarterback, you need to know where everybody is and what's going on," he said. "I would know where the quarterback would need me to be."
Lewis makes an effort to know where everyone is and what's going on when he's not on the football field. He said he tries to set an example for his three younger sisters and younger brother. Lewis plans to major in human development and family studies at Penn State and aspires to be a counselor when his playing days are over, helping others find and take advantage of second chances.
"I really want to just be able to help people that are struggling," he said.