Lewis Starts Drive To Respectability

Duke

Qb/salesman Says Devils Heading In Right Direction

July 28, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

GREENSBORO, N.C. - -How do you resurrect an ailing football program?

It all starts with winning more games. But there's so much more.

Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis passed for 2,171 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, but the rising senior says that's not enough.

Lewis has made himself an emissary for reviving Duke's football program. In public appearances, he talks about rising attendance, the community becoming more engaged and Wallace Wade Stadium undergoing much-needed renovation.

"Coach [David] Cutcliffe always states to leave a place better than when you found it. Anything I can do to help," Lewis said.

Mostly, that means being a good quarterback. And a good salesman for the program. He is both.

Lewis helped Duke - which hosts Maryland Oct. 24 - to a 31-3 victory over Virginia last season, the Blue Devils' first Atlantic Coast Conference victory in its past 26 tries.

The victory came in Duke's first ACC game of the season, creating an early buzz about Lewis and the team. Duke, which finished 4-8 but didn't win another ACC game, recorded its highest average attendance (28,727) since 1994. The team, accustomed to being overshadowed by men's basketball, drew four crowds of more than 30,000 for the first time.

Lewis sat at a table during this week's ACC Football Kickoff conference and talked animatedly about how much he has learned about reacting to defenses and becoming a team leader.

But Lewis also mused about nonfootball items - such as the condition of the 80-year-old stadium - that are critical to the program's success.

The stadium, adjacent to Cameron Indoor Stadium, is getting new restrooms and concession stands this season. It still doesn't have suites.

Said Cutcliffe, the second-year coach: "One of the first things I had people e-mail me about was, 'Please do something about the restrooms and move the students back to the home side [of the stadium].' " Both tasks have been accomplished.

"I didn't know the bathrooms was a big issue," Lewis, from Opa-Locka, Fla., said with a smile. "We needed that. Especially the women. They were like, 'Wow, the bathrooms are old and beat up. Sometimes we would hold it until we got home because the bathrooms were so bad.' " Lewis then raised his voice and issued a mock call for the fans. "Kids, women come out. You can use the restrooms now!"

Most Maryland players know little about the Blue Devils.

"I don't know much about them because since I've been at Maryland we haven't played them once," said quarterback Chris Turner, entering his fifth year at College Park. "But I don't think of them as the old Duke."

Alumni are cautiously optimistic, said Duke grad Sally Fogarty of Chevy Chase, who has raised money for Duke and sent several of her children there.

"I think they feel things are starting to turn around," she said.

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