Antonio Lewis is one of the most athletic and fastest players on West Virginia University’s fifth-ranked football team.

The 5-10, 190-pound junior from Waldorf, Md., shared playing time at cornerback with graduated Dee McCann in 2005. He also excelled as a punt- and kickoff-returner.

He’s projected as a starter when the Mountaineers kick off the season on Saturday, Sept. 2, against Marshall in the Friends of Coal Bowl at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium.

“Coach Rod wants intensity, and that’s what I try to give every day,” Lewis said. “I try to take pride in my good condition.

“We worked hard in training camp and (strength coach) Mike Barwis worked us very hard this summer. So now we’re getting ready for Marshall.”

Lewis, who was a quarterback in high school, loves playing defense. He hits extremely hard for a player his size.

He’s determined to do all he can to make plays in the rebuilt secondary. He said McCann, Mike Lorello and Jahmile Addae were “in-credible” last season as seniors.

“They taught me a lot,” Lewis said. “They made a lot of plays here. And I think all of them still are in the NFL (trying to earn jobs).”

Lewis logged 23 tackles, including two sacks, and broke up four passes in 2005. He also returned 11 punts for 216 yards (19.6 average) and 17 kickoffs for 376 yards (22.1 average).

He has been clocked at 4.4 seconds for 40 yards. But he noted that tailback Steve Slaton may now be the team’s fastest man at 4.3 seconds.

“(Quarterback) Pat White is very, very fast, too,” Lewis said. “I’m trying. I’m trying.”

He admittedly thinks the world of Coach Rodriguez.

“Football is his game, of course, but he’s taught me and others so much,” Lewis said. “He’s an all-around man - not just a football coach.

“You gotta be able to do it all in life — not just football.”

He made the all-Big East second team last year as a return specialist. He had a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown against East Carolina.

In the 38-35 upset of Georgia in the Nokia Sugar Bowl at Atlanta, he ran back five kicks for 105 yards.

Lewis passed for 1,914 yards and rushed for 847 yards as a senior at Thomas Stone High. He also threw for 15 touchdowns and rushed for 17.

He was named The Washington Post metro player of the year. He also made the all-D.C. metro, all-state, and all-Southern Maryland Athletic Conference teams.

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