DeKALB – The past few weeks have been an adjustment for Tommylee Lewis.
The freshman out of Riviera Beach, Fla., is beginning to experience his first bout of cold temperatures since he moved to Northern Illinois.
“The good thing is that it’s gradually getting colder, so I can get used to it,” he said.
More sudden was the realization that he’d be on Northern Illinois' depth chart for the first time this week against Cal Poly.
After weeks as a member of the scout team, the 5-foot-8, 170-pound receiver returned kicks and played on offense against the Mustangs. He came away with a 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter of NIU’s 47-30 win at Huskie Stadium, one quarter after a 16-yard score on a similar play was called back because of a penalty.
“It was pretty exciting. I was ready to go out there and get the jitterbugs out and get going. It was a great experience,” Lewis said with a big smile. “Before the game, I felt like I wanted to do something special. Scoring a touchdown was special for me and the team.”
Lewis seemed destined for a redshirt season despite a strong fall camp because of NIU's depth at receiver. The speedster, though, turned heads in practice throughout the early portion of the season.
Primary kick returner Tommy Davis’ increased playing time on defense, combined with Lewis’ ability, forced Doeren to effectively burn Lewis’ redshirt year on Saturday.
“I’m sick of trying to stop him in practice on the scout team,” Doeren said with a chuckle. “I just think we needed a boost on our return game. He plays hard, and he’s relentless.”
Lewis has big-play ability, evidenced by his appearance on SportsCenter’s top ten plays in high school.
But contributing more on offense isn’t even on his mind – Lewis was just excited to get on the field.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish, on the other hand, knows how big of a difference Lewis can make.
“Tommy is so fast. He just ignites our offense,” Harnish said. “You see that in the return game. People see that and it adds another dimension that we have to defend. Another weapon for us is huge.”