(CBS Detroit)- The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, and despite no longer being a public event, it is still on the minds of sports fans everywhere. Hundreds of prospects are hoping to hear their names called the weekend of April 23rd-25th, and former Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke is among them.
Lewerke’s time with the Spartans was a bit of a roller coaster ride. The Spartans won 10 games in his first year as a starter, as he burst onto the scene with over 2,700 yards passing and 20 TDs to 7 INTs. In 2018, those numbers fell off a bit before he rebounded in his senior year, topping 3,000 yards passing with 17 TDs.
In the end, he walks away from his time with the Spartans as the career leader in total offense (9,548 yards), and in the top five of passing yards, touchdowns and completions. Lewerke enters the draft process confident that his time in a pro-style offense gives him the tools he needs to be the next in the line of Spartans QBs to make it in the league. This is his story, in his words, lightly edited.
I started playing tackle when I was in fourth grade back in Washington. I wanted to play receiver back then, but my dad wanted me to play quarterback, so I switched over. I have been playing that ever since. Once I started playing a lot in middle school and high school, that’s when I realized I could probably get free college and hopefully make a career from it.
I was a pitcher in baseball when I was younger, so I think my dad knew that I had a good arm. And I think he believed that I should try it out, because there were a ton of kids wanting to play receiver, but not many quarterbacks.
Being a pitcher, obviously you have a little bit of a different throwing motion than when you play quarterback. But, playing sports outside of football in the offseason really helped me with staying in good physical condition, so that when football season came back around, I was ready.
When I got my first offer back in my junior year of high school, I was like, yeah, I can really do something about this. I always wanted to play college football growing up, and once that came to fruition with the offer my junior year, it was like, wow, this is pretty cool, and things really started to blow up after that. I had about 15 offers coming out of high school.
My top two were ASU (Arizona State) and Michigan State, and it was just once I got to visit Michigan State and see the campus, meet the coaches, see the way Coach D (Mark Dantonio) ran the program up here, it was better than I had seen anywhere else. It was a very family-oriented atmosphere, and I fell in love with it.
Plus, the quarterbacks that Michigan State has produced in the last 10-15 years, all have had their shot to go and play in the NFL (Brian Hoyer and Kirk Cousins still playing) that was a big selling point to me.
It was really cool to be in the quarterbacks room knowing I’m learning from the staffs that helped those previous guys get to the NFL. They have all of the NFL quarterbacks on the wall in the quarterbacks room just to remind you. When I redshirted my freshman year, Connor Cook was still there. Getting the chance to learn under him, see the way he plays, the way he carried himself and the way that he was able to perform at Michigan State, it was great. He’s one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in their history, and it was great to be able learn underneath.
It’s actually funny, being there my freshman year, when we went to the College Football Playoff, I was like ‘oh this is easy, this is just how college football works.’ We won the Big Ten championship that year, we had won it three times in five years, so obviously I thought okay we’ll be there every year. That wasn’t the case, but I had high expectations for myself and the team once I did get in the lineup, even if we didn’t reach those goals.
The biggest learning curve for me was after the 2016 season (redshirt freshman year) going into the 2017 season. I really started to pick up the offense. Plus, since I was coming off of an injury, I wasn’t able to do much conditioning that winter so I instead focused on getting bigger and stronger. I had a solid spring, which then followed through right into the summer and then fall with a strong first season as the starter.
After the 10-win season in 2017, our expectations were high. We wanted to win the Big Ten and possibly earn a College Football Playoff berth. Things didn’t go the way we wanted, but my motivation was the seniors that I had been playing with that I wanted to send out the right way. We didn’t get the bowl win that we wanted to, but we fought hard to earn that bowl bid.
Looking back on my time at Michigan State, I set multiple records there, and I’m very proud of that. But, I wanted to win a Big Ten Championship in my time playing, and that unfortunately didn’t happen. However, I am very proud of what we did accomplish, and I hope I have left my mark on the program and set it up for success going forward.
Heading into the Combine, I knew what to expect from talking to some of the guys that had gone through the process prior. But I think this year’s setup, with workouts in the evenings, actually helped us more, because we had a bit more downtime than we normally would have in past years. The days were still full of meetings going from 8:30-11 with coaches the first three nights, which can certainly be tiring. But I enjoyed sharing my knowledge, and I think Michigan State prepared me really well with the type of offense that we ran.
Outside of the Combine, the draft process has obviously been a bit different this year amid the coronavirus outbreak. Rather than individual visits to team facilities, I have done multiple FaceTime interviews, regular calls with coaches, and they’re fairly similar to what we did at the Combine. They’ll show me a play, I have to then draw it up.
Outside of those meetings, I’m doing all I can to workout the best I can and throw as much as I can. It’s the reason that I’m still in Michigan now. If I go back to Arizona, I won’t have many guys to work with.
The biggest feedback I have gotten in the process so far is that teams are impressed with my understanding of offenses and plays, the ability to memorize and repeat information quickly. The biggest thing I’m working on is my accuracy with the football, and I have been consistently working on my footwork and my arm angle trying to perfect that going forward.
I haven’t been able to throw a ton during all of this, so most of the work has been mental and then practicing my throwing motion in my room.
As the draft gets closer, I want fans to know that what I bring to the team is a very strong understanding of the game of football. I am a personable guy who will be able to connect with anyone on the team. I set multiple records at Michigan State as a passer, and I have a little bit of running ability as well. I think I would be an asset to any team that brings me in.