UNIVERSITY PARK - He may have to brush up on some of the forgotten footwork it takes to play wide receiver.
But Eugene Lewis certainly doesn’t have to rediscover how to make magic happen with his hands.
It didn’t take long for Lewis to prove that, as the former Wyoming Valley West star made a heart-stopping one-handed grab of the first pass thrown to him during Saturday’s annual Blue-White Game.
That sideline specialty - performed in an annoying rain, no less - only confirmed what his Penn State teammates and coaches have been predicting since Lewis arrived on campus.
The kid’s carrying tremendous potential to become a big-time college performer.
“I think he’s got an excellent future here at Penn State,” Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien said.
Lions fans caught a glimpse of that Saturday at Beaver Stadium, where Lewis made his competitive college debut after sitting out as a freshman last year while taking a red-shirt season.
On the second play for Penn State’s second team offense, Lewis reacted quickly to an off-target pass from quarterback Tyler Ferguson and snared the ball with his right hand for an eight-yard gain.
“It was a little low,” Lewis grinned.
Opponents may not want to know how low Lewis is willing to go to pave a path for Penn State’s success.
Later in the game, he delivered a solid downfield block - something he was rarely called upon to perform at the high school level - while helping running back Akeel Lynch pick up the last eight yards of a 27-yard dash.
“Coach gives me opportunties out there,” Lewis said. “If it’s blocking, I’m going to block the hardest I can.”
The transition back to wide receiver hasn’t been easy for him.
Lewis played the position as a sophomore at Wyoming Valley West, but spent most of his final two high school seasons playing quarterback - a transition not lost on O’Brien.
“This guy was a high school quarterback and we’re asking him to play wide receiver in a very intricate offense,” O’Brien said.
A red-shirt season performing on the scout team - where Lewis emulated the best offensive player for each week’s upcoming opponent last year, including some receivers - helped him, he believes.
“I feel the red-shirt year was a great thing for me,” Lewis said.
He believes, though, he still has a long way to go.
“Just working on my footwork,” Lewis said of his transition back to the wideout spot, “getting my feet back.”
But as he quickly displayed in his Penn State on-field debut, his hands are just fine.
“It was great,” Lewis said. “I really had a lot of fun today.”
In more areas than one.
Lewis fielded a kickoff and a punt while working as one of four returners on both return teams in pregame practice - giving indication he may bring the same electricity to Penn State that he used to light up the Wyoming Valley Conference as a big-play return guy.
“They’re just trying different guys to find out who can do what,” Lewis said.
What Lewis wants most from his first season on a college field is to just play - no matter where that may be.
“I’m going to go out there, no matter what my role is, to do the best I can,” Lewis said.
It looks as if he’s off to a pretty good start.
“What a fantastic kid,” O’Brien said of Lewis. “You talk about a guy who’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s always got a smile on his face. I love coaching him.”