DEWAR — Classes were called off Wednesday morning in Dewar. Even dressed out the band for this one. It’s not every day one of its own signs a letter of intent to play college football. In fact, never has a native son of Dewar, population 919, signed a letter of intent. Before a standing-room only gymnasium, Ronnell Lewis, the Tim Tebow of Dewar, signed sweatshirts, signed sneakers, and when they ran out of those, simply signed loose-leaf sheets of paper, moments after signing to play linebacker at the University of Oklahoma. "I’m going to be playing for everyone back home,” said Lewis, who drove from Norman to Dewar on Tuesday night for his signing day ceremony. "It’s a great feeling to know that all these people are going to be supporting me.” Even teachers were buzzing with excitement, taking pictures of Lewis with cell phone cameras. "This is the biggest event I can remember ever in Dewar, definitely,” said second-grade teacher Jo Mahaffey, a teacher in Dewar the last 11 years. "Especially for these elementary kids. They all look up to him.” Mahaffey’s students were among the countless who stood in line to get Lewis’ autograph and their picture taken with him. Said fifth-grader Jordan Gresham, "He’s a great athlete to look up to. A great football player.” Said fourth-grader Kaleb Simmons, "Everything Ronnell does in football is great. I want to be like him someday.” That’s the onus Lewis will shoulder to Norman. The weight of an entire town watching on. "At Jenks, at Tulsa Union, they experience this all the time. We don’t,” said school superintendent Todd Been. "We’ve been stressing to our kids here and people at other small places that if you put your heart into it, you can follow your dreams no matter where you’re from. "Ronnell is a great inspiration to these kids and they love him. But he’s carrying a lot of weight for a young man.” Since Lewis, an early enrollee at OU, left for Norman last month, Dragons football coach Josh Been, cousin to the superintendent, has been sending daily text messages to Lewis, reminding him of his responsibility. Said Josh Been, "I’ll text him, ‘Work hard today. A lot of people back here are counting on you.’ ” Lewis, who will be one of five freshmen to participate with the Sooners during spring practice, was OU’s first commitment last February, even though he played 8-man football as a junior. "When I watched his film I said, ‘I don’t care if he’s playing 4-man football,’ ” coach Bob Stoops said during his signing day press conference in Norman. "Great athlete. Great physical presence to him. A bright, fun guy to be around. The kid can play.” Lewis joins Aaron Cummings of Bray as the second 8-man player to sign with OU under Stoops. But unlike Cummings, who was just a 2-star prospect, Lewis is one of the top recruits in the country. According to the recruiting Web site Rivals.com, Lewis is the No. 2 prospect from the state of Oklahoma and the No. 44 overall recruit nationally. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lewis proved worthy of that ranking in the Under Armour All-American Game last month, causing one fumble and returning another for a touchdown in a game featuring the nation’s best high school players. So big expectations and big dreams from a small town and others just like it are going to follow Lewis to Norman. But he says he is honored to bear that burden. "I’m going to work real hard,” Lewis said. "I want to set an example for small-school kids everywhere and prove to everyone that anyone can do what they dream to do.”
More coverage OU’s Class
Big catch→Demontre Hurst, CB: Sooners got a steal in the 4-star cornerback. His letter of intent makes OU’s defensive back class one of the best in the country.
One that got away→Eric Ward, WR: Speedy slot receiver out of Wichita Falls, Texas, switched his commitment to Texas Tech last month and signed with the Red Raiders. Ward figures to be a high-impact player at a position where the Sooners had a need.
Sleeper→Terry Franklin, ATH: Will be a project, after playing against junior-varsity competition at Mansfield (Texas) Legacy, which is starting up its football program. But at 6-foot-3, just 199 pounds, Franklin has plenty of room to mature physically.
Quotable→"We anticipate them all being ready to play. In today’s game, we don’t go in anticipating or wanting to redshirt anyone. We want all these guys to be prepared to play. And we take the approach that we’re going to get them prepared to play.” — OU coach Bob Stoops By Jake Trotter