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Canes' commitment Malcolm Lewis has Miramar 3 wins away from 2nd state title

With the Canes season officially wrapped up, I'll be passing through a few local high schools over the next couple weeks to catch up with some of the top local players and teams as the playoffs wind down. Monday, I got a chance to catch up with Miramar High receiver and Canes commitment Malcolm Lewis. Here is the longer version of the feature story I turned in tonight.

Marlene Lewis and her husband Marvin like to get into playful arguments over where their youngest son Malcolm -- a star receiver at Miramar High and University of Miami commitment -- got his athletic talents.

Malcolm LewisMarlene, a mother of five and information management technician at Orange Brook Elementary in Hollywood, says Malcolm got his 4.3-speed in the 40-yard dash from her. In high school, Marlene ran on the 100, 200 and 4x100-meter relay teams at American High in Miami.

Marvin, a former defensive tackle at American High who now serves as a cook for inmates at various Miami-Dade County jails, takes credit for Malcolm's size (5-11, 190) and toughness -- and some of that speed, too.

But Malcolm's passion for football? That's all him.

"You watch him on the field and no matter what, he always gives his best effort. Whether they throw the ball to him or not, he always runs full speed," Marvin Lewis said. "I tell him he's better than me. I wouldn't run that hard every play."

Said Marlene: "He's been that way since he was a little boy. I'd take him to the grocery store with me and he would run around, make all these cuts and spins like somebody was trying to tackle him. I always used to have to scream at him, 'Boy you aren't on the field.' He just loves the game."

Lewis has grown up to be one of the best high school receivers in the country -- and a bonafide leader for the Patriots, who are just three wins away from winning two state titles in three years. Friday night, Miramar, 11-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation by USA Today, will host Palm Beach Gardens (9-2-1) in the Region 3-8A final.

According to Rivals.com, he's rated the 26th best receiver in the country. He's also considered an ESPN Top 150 recruit (146th) regardless of position. Statistically, though, his numbers hardly represent his talent. Lewis, who caught an 8-yard touchdown pass in his team's win playoff last week against Cypress Bay, has just 37 catches for 535 yards and six touchdowns this season -- middle of the pack numbers compared to other elite receivers in Broward County.

But a big part of that is the number of double and triple teams he draws, setting up opportunities for others on his team to succeed. Lewis is hardly bothered by his lack of big numbers and his coach, Damon Cogdell, said Lewis is an example of a selfless player.

"I don't pay attention to stats," Lewis said. "It's going to come to me. I'm just going to do what I do when I get the ball in my hands."

In the past, whenever Lewis has had the ball in his hands it's usually resulted in big plays. As a sophomore, he caught the winning touchdown pass from Ryan Williams (now at UM) in Miramar's state semifinal win over Miami Central. Earlier this season in Miramar's stunning upset of St. Thomas Aquinas, he caught a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone on fourth down to help rally the Patriots.

"Just a great kid and a real Patriot," Cogdell said. "He's the type of kid you want your daughter to bring home. Don't let the dreads fool you. He's a very humble kid. And truthfully, he's probably the most talented kid I got out here.

"He doesn't complain. I remember last year there was many games where he was wide open and we didn't get the ball to him. He never complained. It was kind of scary. He just never complains."

Tracy HowardTracy Howard, Lewis' best friend and an All-American cornerback at Miramar, says Lewis remains the best receiver he's had to face in high school.

"He's just so fast. Once he gets up field, he's gone," Howard said. "He's 190. You don't expect him to be that fast. I like to play press. You play press and he beats you, that's it. I think that's what separates him from most guys. He's physical enough to break away and he's fast."

Miramar has sent quite a few receivers to college over the past few years: Ivan McCartney (West Virginia), Stedman Bailey (West Virginia) Donte Chambers (Morgan St.), Rashad Gholston (Florida State), Terrance Gourdine (Eastern Michigan), Denzell McCollum (leaving junior college now).

Cogdell won't go as far as calling Lewis the best of the bunch out of respect for all of the receivers who have played for him, but calls him special. Cogdell said Lewis has dropped just two passes thrown his way this season.

"Great hands, strong hands, good route runner, just overall good kid," Cogdell said. "I would love to have him on defense at safety or corner. But we try to utilize him on offense and special teams.

"The scary part about it is I don't think colleges are giving him due justice. He's got a lot of offers, but there aren't many schools who really followed up on him and recruited him that hard. Miami did and stayed on him. But I thought for sure there would be more teams on him. To me, he's one of the best in the country."

Lewis orally committed to UM coaches two weeks ago and says the decision is "a done deal for right now." While other schools continue to recruit him, he said it's doubtful he'll change his mind because he wants to stay close to home.

"For me, it's really all about family," said Lewis, who had LSU, Florida State, Alabama and Florida as his other finalists.

"I took a visit to West Virginia and I liked it. But it's so far away. I know if I stay down here I can play in front of my family. I live right down the street from [Sun Life Stadium]. On gamedays, this whole section over here [at Miramar] is filled with my family and friends. My granddaddy, cousins, nieces. I just want to play close by for them."

> Two Florida State coaches were on hand at Monday's practice at Miramar to check out Howard, who is considered the No. 1 cornerback in the country by Rivals.com.

Howard told me Monday, "Florida, Florida State, LSU and Alabama are the four schools that are really in it" for his services. Asked if the Canes have no shot at him Howard said: "They're still in the running, but not like those four schools.

"Malcolm picked Miami because it was the best school for him. They recruited him the hardest, showed him the most love. I feel like it's the best for him, especially with the quarterback situation. You got Ryan Williams who played with him two years ago. But I have to look at what the best fit is for me."

Is Howard closer to a decision? "I'm still in the same place," he said. "Everyday it changes. Somedays I want to make a decision, the next day I'll be like 'No.' Malcolm and I always told each other we might go to the same school. But when you look at it, you always want to do what's best for you. But it's still possible we could play together."