DURHAM, N.C. - Former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is scheduled to make his NFL debut on Sunday as the Cleveland Browns close out the regular season at Pittsburgh. Kickoff at Heinz Field is set for 1 p.m.
"It's exciting," Lewis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Once you get the official word that you're starting, it's a blessing for a childhood dream come true. It's an opportunity, and you have to go out and make the best of it. Part of my childhood dream was to be a starter one day in the NFL. Who it was against, I didn't have a visual of that. But it's a challenge, and if you don't like challenges, then you're in the wrong sport. It's a great challenge for this offense to go against the No. 1 defense and try to be successful."
Lewis will face the Steelers' top-ranked defense, which is No. 2 against the run and No. 1 against the pass. Both the Steelers (7-8) and Browns (5-10) have been eliminated from playoff contention.
"He's done great," Browns head coach Pat Shurmur told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He's been preparing himself to play all year, even though he wasn't on the active roster. We anticipate, and what we expect, is that he goes out and plays winning football."
A four-year starter for the Blue Devils from 2006-09, Lewis earned All-ACC honors twice and is one of just two players in league history to throw for over 10,000 career yards. For his collegiate career that included 46 starts under center, he completed 877-of-1,510 (.581) passes for 10,065 yards with 67 touchdowns and 40 interceptions.
"We could not be more excited for Thaddeus," said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. "He is an exceptional young man who has worked extremely hard, and it is not by accident that he has this opportunity."
On the Pittsburgh sideline will be former Blue Devil standout wide receiver and current Steelers assistant coach Scottie Montgomery, who was on the Duke staff as an assistant coach for all four of Lewis' seasons in Durham.
Lewis would become the seventh Duke quarterback to start an NFL game, joining Leo Hart, Al Woodall, Dave Brown, Sonny Jurgensen, Bob Brodhead and Anthony Dilweg.