Jake Lewis loves contact. In fact, he lives for it.
The three-year starting linebacker for the Olentangy Orange High School football team said the physical nature of the game is what draws him to the sport.
"I've been playing since the third grade and I like football because of the hitting," said Lewis, a senior who also has started at tight end the past two seasons. "It's not like any other sport. It's the ultimate team sport because you not only have to do your job, but you have to rely on everyone else. It's great when it all comes together and you get it done."
Lewis also is a defender on the Orange boys lacrosse team and believes the two sports complement one another.
"I'd say lacrosse is a little more fast-paced because you are running continuously, but you can get a breather between plays in football," said Lewis, whose team is 0-5 overall and 0-2 in OCC-Capital Division play. "There's a little less hitting in lacrosse, but I try to hit as much as I can. But they are both team sports and they go well together."
Lewis was second-team all-league at linebacker last season and special mention all-league as a sophomore, when the Pioneers finished 8-3 and reached the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
"Even as a sophomore, you could see that he was a mature kid mentally, and that he would be able to play varsity on Friday nights," defensive coordinator Ted Papas said. "Not all kids are able to do that as a sophomore. That's a big step.
"But having him out there is like having a coach on the field. He's a quiet kid, but he knows where people go on the field. He's great to have around."
Coach Brian Cross said Lewis has been just as important on offense as on defense.
"As a tight end for us, Jake has blocked in the 80-percent range and he has really good hands," Cross said. "Earlier in the year, he was going both ways and on the field full time.
"Jake's a rangy kid who is intelligent, and that's why he's a good linebacker. He reads the schemes well and puts himself in position to make tackles."
That intelligence translates to the classroom, where Lewis carries a 3.8 GPA, 4.04 on a weighted scale.
"Both (football and academics) are important to me," said Lewis, the son of Gary and Reva Lewis who wants to major in a biochemistry or science-related field, with Davidson (N.C.) College, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., and the University of Dayton as possible destinations.
"You have to work hard in the field and work hard in the classroom," he said. "You can't take it easy in either."
That attitude doesn't surprise Papas.
"Jake's a tremendous person and has a good family supporting him," Papas said. "He's been taught to commit himself 100 percent to whatever he's doing. He has a great work ethic and he works hard to be a student of the game."