St. Joseph High School defensive end/linebacker Kaiwan Lewis was looking for a new football home during his college recruitment period.

The incoming senior decided on the University of South Carolina after a July 21-22 visit.

"I felt comfortable there," Lewis, who will be a senior this year, said Friday night. "I bonded with the players a lot and had a great relationship with the coaches. It just felt like a home away from home."

The visit was the second time that Lewis had been on the university campus. The Mays Landing resident then verbally committed to the NCAA Division I program for the fall of 2012.

"I'm looking forward to going in the whole competitive league," Lewis said. "I'm going in there to compete, and I've got a definite chance to play early."

Lewis, 17, was a first-team Press All-Star in 2010, with 79 tackles, six sacks, an interception and a recovered fumble. He helped the Wildcats go 10-1 last season and win their second consecutive state Non-Public II championship. He was a second-team Press All Star as a sophomore in 2009.

"I try to lead by example and vocally as well," said Lewis, who is 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds. "I started freshman year in high school because I'm hungry to get on that field."

South Carolina competes in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). In 2010 the Gamecocks finished 9-5 overall and won the SEC's Eastern Division.

"It's a big time school," Lewis said. "You're playing in the SEC. What more could you ask for?"

St. Joeseph coach Paul Sacco said Lewis has been a vital piece to the Wildcats throughout his high school career.

"He's been a leader since he was a freshman," Sacco said. "He's an excellent role model to the kids. He works hard in the classroom and weight room."

Sacco said that Lewis visited with Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, and South Carolina over 10 days before making his decision.

"I think he did it right," Sacco said. "He spent some time with each one. He asked all the right questions. It came down to where he felt at home, where he could live for four years, and where he's going to get the education that he needs to get."

Lewis said he plans to bring to the Gamecocks the same thing that he always brings to the football field: determination.

"I'm driven and motivated at all times," Lewis said. "I'm a winner. I've got two state championships in high school and I'm trying to bring that to South Carolina and get some championships there."

Contact Jeff Sporer:

609-272-7210