Lewerke mentally prepared for homecoming to Arizona
Junior quarterback Brian Lewerke last played in Arizona during his senior year for Pinnacle High School and now he will return to his home state on Saturday night when he walks onto the field under the lights at Sun Devil Stadium, 30 minutes away from where he started his football career.
This will be the Spartans' third meeting with Arizona State in program history, with the first game dating back to 1985, but for Lewerke, this will be the first time he will play in front of his home crowd in a green and white uniform, allowing him to gain an experience he has never had before.
“It’s fun,” Lewerke said. “I get to see my family again in the middle of the season, which is something I normally can’t do. I’m very excited for it.”
Before coming to Michigan State, Lewerke played quarterback for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix where he was ranked by ESPN.com in the Top 300 prospects. Lewerke ranked 11th among the nation’s top quarterbacks, and was one of the top prospects out of the state of Arizona.
Many players dream of one day playing in front of their hometown crowd or even for their hometown team and for Lewerke, as much as he looks forward to this day, he still will focus on the game itself.
“Yeah, for sure,” Lewerke said. “It will be my first time playing a college game in my home state. I’ll find out how fun it is come Saturday.”
Many Spartan fans across the nation are looking forward to his homecoming especially the Michigan State Alumni from Arizona.
Vice President of the group Kevin Vaughn estimated that around 10,000 Spartan fans purchased tickets and will fill the seats to watch the hometown reunion as well as their favorite football player.
“We’re excited for Brian Lewerke,” Vaughn said. “He is from Pinnacle in Phoenix and a lot of people are excited about that as well.”
Although this will bring excitement for both Lewerke and Spartan fans in Arizona, this is the second game of the season, and the Sun Devils are currently 9-0 in their stadium against Big Ten teams.
Quarterback coach Brad Salem wants to keep his starter focused while getting closer to game time. He also reminded Lewerke to keep doing what he is doing.
“It’s a big homecoming for him, but try not to make too much of it,” Salem said. “With a lot of friends and family at the game, just be yourself and really be you throughout the game.”
On the other hand, coach Mark Dantonio knows the team will have nothing to worry about with Lewerke getting caught up in the hype and excitement of his hometown.
Lewerke has played in the Holiday Bowl along with games played nationally on ESPN, and against high-ranked teams in the Big Ten Conference.
“He’ll be fine,” Dantonio said. “He’s got an opportunity to play in big games here and huge national games and he’ll have an opportunity to play in one at home and I think he’s excited about it.”
Unlike most of his teammates, the Phoenix native is used to playing in excessive dry heat Midwestern natives are not used to. Before making the trip to Arizona, the team practiced during the unusual heat wave that struck East Lansing to help prepare for the scorching conditions.
Lewerke has continually given advice to his fellow teammates to help keep them safe while playing in these abnormal temperatures by staying hydrated, but also by describing how the heat might feel compared to the Midwest.
“It will be hot, but it’s not humid,” Lewerke said.“You don’t feel like you’re in a pool the entire time.”
Another way Dantonio will keep his team on track is adjusting their time when they head out West, as they kickoff at 10:45 p.m. EST, which adds another problem for the team.
Dantonio feels they will have the “upper-hand” with Lewerke while facing Arizona State due to his knowledge of his hometown and how to handle the extremes they don’t normally face during the season.
“I think he brings in a little bit of how they play down there and the mentality from a mindset of what you got to do to play in the heat a little bit, so he brings that mentality with him,” Dantonio said. “He’s a little bit of a source of information for us.”