By Rick Atkinson

For the Anna-Melissa Tribune

Melissa senior John Lewis, an All-District tennis standout and this year’s District 11-4A fall tennis MVP, will continue his educational and athletic career at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas.

Lewis made it official on Dec. 18 at Melissa High School by signing his National Letter of Intent before an enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers and family gathered in the MHS gymnasium during MegaLunch.

“I’m just really excited to be signed and to be honored by everyone here,” Lewis said.

A two-time district doubles champion in spring tennis, Lewis teamed with Jake Fowler in 2018 and Justin Mercer this year. Lewis and Mercer turned in a third-place finish at regionals and were named state-tournament alternates. Last fall in team tennis, Lewis helped lead the Cardinals to bi-district and area-round titles. In 2017, the squad also notched a bi-district playoff win.

LeTourneau is a non-denominational Christian university with respected engineering and computer science departments at its core. Its NCAA Division III sports programs compete in the American Southwest Conference. “It was a good fit for me,” said Lewis, who plans to study computer science.

“I met the entire [LeTourneau] team and I just loved the team immediately,” he said. “We clicked together. It was just great times. … And outside of tennis, it’s just a good school. The campus there is beautiful. It has lots of space with beautiful buildings and scenery.”

As Lewis imparted back in October after being named District MVP, he started playing tennis in seventh grade at Frisco Middle School. “I started because there was girl I liked who played tennis – true story. Then I realized I was actually really good at it.”

Lewis was a sophomore when Cards head tennis coach Brad Crawford took the helm at Melissa. “He was just a skinny little kid on the tennis courts, working hard,” Crawford recalled. “Now, he’s a senior – a skinny, big kid – and he’s working every bit as hard, if not harder, than when he was as a sophomore. … We’re just so proud of John Lewis and his family.”

Crawford noted that Lewis is the program’s first college signee since his arrival in Melissa.

As for Lewis’ game, Crawford said, “He doesn’t ever give up on balls and he’s always looking for a chance to get a ball that he can be aggressive on. He’s not a tentative player at all. That’s advantageous in a doubles player because he’s real aggressive at the net.”

Crawford added that, as a singles player, Lewis has a couple of weapons: an inside-out forehand that’s “blistering,” and a penchant for tough-to-handle angled shots.

“It’s been great,” Lewis said of Crawford’s tenure at MHS. “He’s been a great boost to the team. He’s organized things so much. … I’ll always remember the team. They always had a good time, just always goofing around. But they also knew how to work. They come to the courts, they practice, they do the work.”

Lewis’ parents, Brian and Angie Ferguson, were on hand for their son’s big day, just as they’ve been throughout his career.

“He’s worked hard for it,” Brian said. “He’s kind of realist and knew where he could play. … He had a goal and set it and made it. We’re proud of him. He’s got some work to do to make the starting six [at LeTourneau], but I think he’ll make it. … It’s a very small campus and he’s kind of an introvert at heart so it kind of fit him very well. … There’s ups and downs with an individual sport like that, but he’s been very successful.”

Said Angie, “I’m excited for him to go off and start his new adventure in college, but the mom in me is like, ‘No! My baby!’ … He’ll still be close enough for me to do his laundry.”