Michigan State's Brian Lewerke takes cool demeanor to desert beginnings

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Brian Lewerke

East Lansing — There’s no special treatment this week for Brian Lewerke.

Nope. The Michigan State quarterback doesn’t get to sleep in his own bed at home. He won’t get to wake up and hang out with the family on Saturday morning.

And, quite frankly, the junior signal-caller doesn’t want it any other way.

“I don’t want any special treatment,” Lewerke said this week.

Of course, this isn’t any ordinary week for Lewerke or the 15th-ranked Spartans. They’ll jump on a plane on Friday and head to Phoenix as they get ready to take on Arizona State on Saturday.

For the team, it’s a significant change from the norm considering kickoff is around 10:45 Eastern time and the Spartans will be dealing with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees. For Lewerke, it’s his first chance to play back home in his college career.

Before Lewerke made the decision to come to Michigan State, he was busy compiling a 19-5 record as the starting quarterback at Pinnacle High in Phoenix. He threw 46 touchdown passes as a senior in 2014, was ranked one of the top pro-style recruits in the nation and played in the 2015 Semper Fidelis All-American Game.

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The jump to the Big Ten has kept him from getting back to his roots, save for Michigan State’s trip to San Diego for last season’s Holiday Bowl.

“A pretty good amount,” Lewerke said this week when asked how much he was looking forward to the game.

Asked about what seemed like a lack of true excitement, Lewerke laughed.

“No, it’s exciting,” he said. “I’m just ready to get down there and play.”

As big as this is for Lewerke — family and friends will likely near 100 on Saturday night, including some in the Sun Devils’ student section — he never takes his eyes off the prize. For him, the task at hand is simple — win a football game.

It’s that business-like approach that has led him to the spot he’s in now, leading a team with championship aspirations. And while he isn’t yelling and screaming, the fire is there.

“It is in him, and we see it at practice, you see it during a game,” quarterbacks coach Brad Salem said. “But I do think through the flows of the game you see an interception, he comes off (the field and) that’s not gonna change him. Being down at the end of the game, knowing we have to score to win, he just has a command and a calmness and you would like that in your leader. But you also have to have the fire, which he has, and that’s displayed itself quite a bit with us because he’s very competitive.’

His teammates like to have fun with him, though. Wide receiver Felton Davis said he saw a story that said Lewerke will yell at teammates.

Nonsense, Davis said.

“He has this mad thing he does where he just throws the ball at you,” Davis said laughing. “You run the wrong route and he’ll throw it at you anyway. And you’re thinking you did it right and really he just threw it at you cuz you ran the wrong route.”

OK, so the temper might not be there, but rarely has anyone questioned what Lewerke is made of. From the day he stepped on campus Lewerke has been turning heads, even as the Spartans were in the midst of a playoff run in 2015.

“My first impression was he is an amazing quarterback,” Davis said, recalling their early days on campus. “Even when we first got here you could sense we were always on the same page — me, him and Darrell (Stewart).”

None of them knew a thing back then. Davis says they ran the same two routes — a hitch and a fade. But they perfected it.

It led to Davis getting on the field as a true freshman but, more importantly, it’s led to Lewerke and his receivers having a connection that is vital for a good offense. It was on display in the opener when Lewerke twice threw to a covered Davis, who came up with both catches, one resulting in a touchdown.

Lewerke has the same feel with Stewart, who had seven catches in the opener, and he’s quickly developing it with sophomore Cody White.

“It’s just trusting everybody,” Davis said. “Knowing he doesn’t have to be Superman allows others to take that step with you. Sometimes he doesn’t have to throw the most amazing ball or be perfect.”

Often times, however, he does. It has Lewerke high some early NFL Draft boards and has his name showing up on some Heisman Trophy lists. It’s further evidence that Lewerke is becoming everything the Spartans thought he could become when Salem recruited him.

He wasn’t MSU’s first choice in that year’s class, but he sure is turning out to be the right one.

“What you want to see is most guys obviously that come here are going to be talented and gifted physically,” Salem said. “But what you learn when you spend time with them or see them perform is their demeanor and their confidence and do you make the other people around you better. I feel like he had that. Really at the end of his first year, you could see it.”

He’ll get the chance to show that to family and friends up close on Saturday. It’s something his parents, David and Angela, see all the time. They travel to every game. This one is for everyone else.

Until it’s over, though, Lewerke will do his best to keep that even keel his teammates are used to.

“It’s no different than any other game,” Lewerke insisted. “I’m just the only one from Arizona. But I won’t treat it much different.”