Dominating Presence: a Q&A with Michigan-bound Aaron Lewis of Williamstown

Williamstown’s Aaron Lewis, a 6-6 defensive end committed to Michigan, has the championship-hungry Braves off and running again.

Baseball was his top sport in middle school and Aaron Lewis also dabbled with singing and playing guitar. Then he almost quit football to focus on basketball after his freshman year. Now Williamstown High School senior Aaron Lewis has a football scholarship at Michigan University but is eager to lead the Braves to another South Jersey Group 5 title before graduation. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Williamstown graduated more than a couple key players from the offense of last year’s South Jersey Group 5 championship team, but the team’s vaunted defense is back doing damage in 2019, led by the rangy, quick, and strong Aaron Lewis.

A first-team All-State selection as a junior, Lewis is a dominating defensive end for South Jersey’s top football team.

“His enthusiasm for the game, his work habit,” Williamstown coach Frank Fucetola said of what he liked best about Lewis. “Not only how he approaches practices but how he approaches game day, his overall enthusiasm and love for the game you can’t measure. He’s a bundle of joy and all energy, it’s all energy with him.”

The 6-foot-6 Lewis will graduate early and head to the University of Michigan to continue his athletic career shortly after Christmas. 

But did you know that in middle school Lewis hadn’t even began playing football and his top hobby was playing guitar and singing Jonas Brothers’ songs? Or that he nearly quit football three years ago for basketball after a knee injury? Or that baseball was his top sport in heading into eighth grade?

South Jersey Sports Weekly caught up with Lewis before the Braves (3-0) hosted undefeated Lenape tonight.

South Jersey Sports Weekly: You guys lost your starting quarterback and starting running back, but it looks like you haven’t skipped a beat (starting the season 3-0).

Aaron Lewis: We had Dougie Brown and Chris Forman, who have replaced Wade (Inge) and J.C. (Collins), they were getting reps and preparing for this season last year. They were getting used to the offense. So we prepared for it. And they worked hard, lifting in the offseason. So when the season came around, in scrimmages they started balling out. And it just felt like they had played last year. So I’m really proud of the guys, how hard they’ve worked. They’re both great players, I’m glad they came around so quickly.

SJSW: I saw you made your college decision. Stressful?

Lewis: Oooh. Originally I was committed to West Virginia. But then I took a visit down to Ann Arbor because Coach Campanella, the coach who was recruiting me, was telling me to come out there. We had just kept in touch with me and he was always checking up on me, and I really like that in a coach. I could show he really cared. So I went out there for a visit and it was amazing, I felt like I was actually a part of the team and I was just a recruit there. Hanging out with the players. And Coach (Jim) Harbaugh, I text with him almost every day now, he’s a really great guy. I felt like he was the one that was going to put me in the best position of making my dream come true and going to the NFL. So now I’m a Michigan man.

SJSW: You talk about your dream coming true, but only a couple of years ago your dream was a bit different, right?

Lewis: [Laughs] Yeah, after I tore my meniscus twice, I said I’m going to pursue my career in basketball. I’m about to be the first 6-5 center that anyone has seen.

SJSW: [Laughs]

Lewis: Obviously that didn’t work out. I’m glad Coach (Justin) George called me and told me that (football) could get me to college, that he could promise me that, that I could get to college for free. I’m really glad he made that call because without that none of this would be happening right now. I’d probably be going to Stockton (College) or a D-III scholarship for basketball. So I’m glad him (and all of the other coaches) had my back at that time. They’re the reason all of this is happening right now. 

SJSW: So why was basketball your first love?

Lewis: I played basketball first. I used to be a singer, actually. I was a singer and I played guitar. [Laughs]. That’s when I was in middle school. And I played baseball all my life. And then in eighth grade a coach told me to come out for basketball because I was tall and I could help them. So I started playing a lot, and freshman year I played JV and varsity a little. Then I tore my meniscus but I wanted to come back and prove to people that I could be a basketball star. I wanted to pursue that. It didn’t really work out, but I’m glad it didn’t work out because I wouldn’t be the position I’m in today.

SJSW: When did you give up baseball?

Lewis: After eighth grade.

SJSW: Did you pitch?

Lewis: I was a catcher, actually. A tall catcher. I used to love baseball. But then I saw basketball and football. I wasn’t liking the slow-paced game. And with all my energy, I wanted to get into a high-paced game where I could be running around and screaming and stuff. You can’t really do that in baseball.

SJSW: Are you buddies with (Delran two-sport star) R.J. Moten (who is also going to Michigan)?

Lewis: Yeah, that’s my guy. We were just hanging out at the captain’s banquet. R.J. is a great guy, we text a lot. We’re rooming together at Michigan. We’re both leaving for Michigan in January, graduating early. So we’re talking about it all the time.

SJSW: Who do you credit for your skills? You only began playing football a few years ago, right?

Lewis: Honestly I’m going to have to credit Coach George, the (defensive line) coach here, and Coach Caruthers. And Coach Sheffield on the freshman team, who showed me the basics. … After freshman year I was hanging with Coach George a lot, talking, hanging out and working on things after practice. He developed me into the player I am now. When you have dedication and you have coaches showing you the way, it really comes together. Coach George has been there for me since freshman year, I feel like he’s the reason I am what I am right now.

SJSW: I have to go back to one of your previous answers. Did you say you were doing some singing and playing guitar?

Lewis: Awww. [Laughs]. I can still sing and play the guitar. I don’t do it a lot. Sometimes the vocals come out. But I don’t play the guitar a whole lot, it just sits in my room collecting dust. But the vocals come out sometimes, you can ask some of my teammates. They’re like, ‘Dang, Aaron, you actually have a pretty good voice.’ It’s one of my hidden talents. 

SJSW: Let’s look at your teammates. Who would you consider the best offensive player here?

Lewis: I feel like I’m going to have to give it a three-way tie, with Chris, Mekhi (Gamble) and Dougie. Dougie came onto the scene even with people questioning him and handled it really well. And he’s passing to Mekhi, who has 211 yards and a couple touchdowns already and he played JV all last year. Chris was always talking about waiting for his time to shine, and he’s shining right now.

SJSW: Who’s the funniest person on the team?

Lewis: David Williams. He always finds a way to get guys laughing. You need that one player. Even if he’s making animal sounds or just telling jokes. He’s one of my best friends.

SJSW: Smartest?

Lewis: Julian. Julian Gravener. On the field and off the field. I know he has looks from the University of Penn. And on the field he’s always telling us about film notes, making sure we’re watching film, telling us the key parts. He’s a good mental guy and really helps the team out a lot.

SJSW: Who is the best athlete at Williamstown?

Lewis: I’m going to have to say Jon Wood. He’s probably going to college for baseball and football. I know he has D-I looks. 

SJSW: Who is the best football player in South Jersey?

Lewis: [Eyes get big]. You know, I don’t want to sound cocky.

SJSW: That’s fine!

Lewis: I don’t want to —you know what? I’m going to have to say Brandon Perkins. He’s, in my opinion, a guy who is running around all the time, very underrated. When people come out to look at him, colleges, they see it and he has 15 offers now and is committed to Kent State. He’s out with a knee injury now. His dedication to the game is crazy. He puts in more work than anybody in South Jersey. 

SJSW: Do you have brothers and sisters who play sports?

Lewis: My brother played football at Washington Township — James Honey. And my sister plays softball, Kayla Lewis. One of my best moments I think was playing against my brother in that Thanksgiving game, his senior year and my sophomore year, he was at guard or tackle and I was at defensive end. We were going at it. I got a sack on him. 

SJSW: He’s never going to live that one down.

Lewis: That’s all I talk about. 

SJSW: Do you have a role model or someone you look up to?

Lewis: My mom. My mom (Angela Meravigilia) is my biggest role model. She’s a single parent and, being to raise me the way I am right now, it’s just outstanding. I can always tell her and my grandmother (Barbie Meravigilia) are doing stuff for me and have my back no matter what. 

SJSW: Do you have any pro or college players you look up to?

Lewis: I’m a big fan of Khalil Mack (of the Chicago Bears). I watch his tapes all the time, his one-hand stabs, his pass rush moves. The guy is just a beast. I like to take notes on what he does and then try to use it in practice.

SJSW: Do you have a favorite movie?

Lewis: “Friday.” My dad and I used to watch that movie all the time, we’d come home Fridays after the game and watch it. 

SJSW: Favorite school subject?

Lewis: History. I love learning about things that happened in the past, I like to learn about the wars. World War II is the most interesting to me.

SJSW: Do you have a favorite teacher here at Williamstown?

Lewis: Mr. (Josh) Brooke. And Ms. (Crystal) McCool, too.  

SJSW: Last one. If they introduced everyone before the game and you got a song to walk out to, what are you choosing?

Lewis: Tupac, “Hail Mary.” That’s the OG song I used to listen to all the time.