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Football: Get to know Levi Lewis, Louisiana football’s patient QB tasked with beating Texas

Blake Toppmeyer

USA TODAY NETWORK, Daily Advertiser, Website, Sept. 1, 2021

LAFAYETTE, La. – Levi Lewis is mindful of Louisiana coach Billy Napier’s advice when the Ragin’ Cajuns’ senior quarterback stands in the pocket.

“Take what they give you. Eventually, they’ll give you the game,” Napier tells Lewis.

In other words, don’t force the issue. Be patient.

No problem there.

Lewis is patience personified.

In an era in which many college quarterbacks favor the transfer market over biding their time, Lewis breaks the mold.

He didn’t play in the first six games of his freshman season in 2017 before appearing in four of the final five games, including three starts. Napier became Louisiana’s coach after that season, and Lewis returned to a backup role in 2018. But he played in every game off the bench that year in a two-quarterback system.

Lewis took the reins of Louisiana’s offense in 2019, and he’ll make his 26th consecutive start when the No. 23 Ragin’ Cajuns play at No. 19 Texas on Saturday (3:30 p.m. CT, FOX).

“I always preach to my guys, it’s all about patience,” Lewis told me during an interview on campus in June. “Your time is going to come. You’ve got to work while you wait. I’ve been working while I was waiting, and that doesn’t stop.”

Lewis’ patience paid off.

Louisiana has elevated into one of the nation’s best Group of 5 programs under Napier, a former assistant for Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are 21-4 the past two seasons, and they’ve won the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division in each of the past three years.

In 2019, Louisiana reached double-digit victories for the first time in program history. It repeated the feat last year and finished the season ranked in the AP poll for the first time ever.

Lewis, a 5-foot-10, 184-pound dual threat, completed 59.6% of his passes for 2,274 yards in 2020 and added 335 yards rushing.

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While this level of success is new for Louisiana, it’s not for Lewis.

He helped his high school team, Scotlandville Magnet of Baton Rouge, reach the state championship as a senior. Scotlandville’s boys basketball program is a powerhouse, with Lewis playing on two state title teams. He also won a state championship as part of a relay team in track.

“When I came here, I wanted to change the whole program around,” Lewis said. “I grew up in a type of culture where we would go undefeated, or we would lose one game. I’m used to that. That’s what made me want to stay. I wanted to stand on those kind of principles.”

Lewis was rated as a three-star prospect, and recruiting services classified him as an athlete. He said LSU expressed some interest in him if he was willing to convert to wide receiver. That didn’t jive with his plans.

Lewis harbors no hard feelings toward LSU, nor any regret about sticking to his desire to play quarterback in college.

“I’ve been playing quarterback since I was 4, since Pee Wee. That’s something that’s been put in you,” he said.

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“You touch the ball every play. You’re making decisions. You’ve got to be 10 steps ahead of everyone. There’s a thought process. There’s a lot that goes into it, and I love it. I’m smiling, catching chills right now.”

When Lewis is away from the field, you might find him at a fishing hole in or around Baton Rouge. Yes, an activity that requires plenty of patience ranks among Lewis’ favorite hobbies.

“That fishing feeling, it never gets old,” he said. “I love that peace. It’s calming.”

Speaking of fishing, Lewis enters his final season fueled by the belief that the Ragin’ Cajuns “let a big fish off the hook” last season.

He’s referencing a 30-27 loss to Coastal Carolina on Oct. 14.

The Ragin’ Cajuns opened the season a month earlier by thumping Iowa State 31-14 on the road, but the loss to Sun Belt rival Coastal Carolina remains caught in Lewis’ craw.

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Louisiana and Coastal Carolina were set for a rematch in the Sun Belt Championship last December, but the game was canceled after a positive COVID-19 test within Coastal’s program and subsequent quarantining.

The Ragin’ Cajuns will get another shot at winning the Sun Belt this season. Perhaps patience will be rewarded.

“It’s going to be a special year,” Lewis said.