Essentially, what makes Jimmy Lewis so good is that he blends the best of the Maryland and New York styles. He is as tricky, and moves the stick as well, as any young man brought up on Powerhouses at Ameche's. And he is a master of the Long Island techniques. "He releases the ball faster than anyone I ever saw," says Bilderback. "His change of direction is such," says Bobby Scott, "that he can dodge his man almost whenever he wants to."
Lewis has also created his own style, one that is certain to be emulated. Frank Riggs, a former football co-captain at the University of North Carolina, guarded Lewis in the Navy-Mount Washington game. Lewis made two goals and had three assists, but Riggs still was credited with an outstanding defensive job. "He's definitely different from any other little attackman I've ever played," says Riggs. "Most of them just dodge and dart. They roll and give you the back most of the time. The one-on-one is more like it is in basketball. But not Lewis. He comes right at you. He makes it like a football situation, the defensive back against the offensive end. He holds the stick absolutely perpendicular to the ground. I've never seen anyone else do that. I don't see how he keeps the ball in there. Then he'll get up a full head of steam and come at you and pull that stick right across his face, right in front of you, teasing you. You can almost hear him saying, 'O.K., big boy, I'm coming at you.' And if you take the bait, if you commit, he'll come right past you. It's a great thing. I told George Boynton, who's an attackman on our team—built about the same way Lewis is—and he tried it a couple of times and really had some success with it. But it's a new thing and hard to learn if you've always been doing something else."
The Long Island in Lewis makes him a perfect lead for the rough Navy team. The attack is geared to him, with most plays starting with Lewis in his outside left position. Generally his teammates will clear out and let him work one-on-one. But since it is impossible to contain him in this situation, at least one member of the opposition backs up on him to assist the defenseman assigned to guard Lewis.
"Of all his assets," says Gene Corrigan, the University of Virginia coach, "I'll take his toughness. They knock him down. They ride him. But he gets up. When Navy brings the ball downfield they give it to Lewis. When he loses it, 98% of the time he gets it right back. That's when he'll catch the defense off balance and come up with the really great play."
When Navy moves on the attack Lewis—feinting and faking—waits for the ball to move downfield. Suddenly, as it nears him, another buzz drowns out the buzzing in his ears. This is from the midshipmen—a singular, high-pitched, excited hum, as if the brigade had seen Tecumseh himself get down from his pedestal in front of Bancroft Hall and pick up a lacrosse stick.
In his three years at Navy, Lewis has made 74 goals and 84 assists in 31 games, but the statistics are meaningless because the Navy powerhouse has outclassed the opposition in many games and Lewis has been content just to feed off to his teammates. He has to be followed closely at all times, though, for he gives little indication of an impending shot or pass, and he is made even more deceptive by the fact that he shoots equally well left- or right-handed. "Louie, Loo-oo-ee, Loo-oo-ee-ee," the Middies roar when he starts his move, and when he passes it off they wait for him to get the ball back, not really content until he has fed for a score or blasted his own quick rocket into the nets.
Only football surpasses lacrosse in popularity at Annapolis, so over the last decade only Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach have been more acclaimed than Lewis. He wears his celebrity well, proud that the system permits him no favors. "You just think," he says. "The Saturday morning of any game I'm still up at 6:15 and out on that river after breakfast till 10 in those little boats." He has grown from a shy "youngster" (which is the Annapolis term for sophomore) into a self-assured first classman who is honestly aware of his great talent. "You could see Lewis' confidence increase year by year," says Coach Scott of Hopkins.
"But he's a cocky little devil," Riggs says. "Of course, he's got all the right to be. After he's gone by you a couple of times and left you standing there looking silly, he'll give you the little looks, sort of disdainful, like he can do it again anytime he wants to. It has to unnerve you a little. Then the day after our game I understand he came right out and did tell someone that he could go around me anytime he wanted to."
Lewis is now preparing for his departure from athletics. "It's been fun," he says. "Athletics to me is a good time. I like to play. So it's a void I'll have to fill. I just bought some golf clubs. Pretty good buy—$35, a secondhand set. I really don't know how much I'll miss sports. I saw Dennis Wedekind—he was our goalie last year—I saw him the other day and he told me, 'You'll miss it.' Well, I don't know. Maybe I will. I don't know. But I am finished. I bought the golf clubs."
After some temporary summer duty Lewis will report to Pensacola in September to begin flight training that will probably stretch out to two years. This is his choice, not an assignment. Only after this training ends does his four-year obligation begin. He doesn't wave the flag or drum out Anchors Aweigh on the tablecloth, but Jimmy Lewis is going to be a Navy man.