May 8, 2016
ANN ARBOR — Hours after the 2016 NFL draft came to a close earlier this month, speculation began about where college players will land next season.
Michigan senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis — an All-American last season — found himself directly in the middle of just that.
Lewis — who set a Michigan record for pass breakups as a junior last season — opted to return to school for his senior year, despite a number of analysts saying he would’ve gone off the board sooner than later this spring.
Moving forward, Lewis has been projected as a first-round pick in 2017 by a handful of prognosticators, something that’s hard for anyone to ignore — especially during the early and slow part of college football’s offseason.
But Lewis says he has to do just that. He can’t spend the next year with one eye on the NFL and one eye in Ann Arbor. Otherwise, the next step doesn’t get taken.
“I’ve got to take it one day at a time,” Lewis said. “I’ll be really excited if I get drafted next year, but it’s never promised. The next day is never promised. I have to keep working.
“I have another year, my senior year, to experience. If this year goes well, then we’ll see what happens.”
At the same time, though, Lewis says he’s fully aware of his potential and the possible future waiting for him after his college career comes to a close.
Never short on confidence, Lewis believes he’s one of the best corners in the country — as he did a year ago. Some would argue he’s in the conversation for No. 1 nationally, alongside Iowa’s Desmond King and USC’s Adoree Jackson.
So he does face external expectations moving forward. His personal expectations are high as well. And he knows he can’t allow any scrap of his now trademark work ethic to slow this offseason. Otherwise, he could find himself sitting and waiting next spring instead of fielding phone calls from a host of teams who are ready to pay him a fortune.
“You have to try to concentrate on what you’re doing right now,” he said. “You’ve just got to focus on what you’re doing in the present instead of the future.
“You always have to concentrate and understand that you have a purpose, everything has a purpose. You have to have building blocks for each day. If I keep (up with that), I’ll get to that level.”
One of the most respected players on Michigan’s roster, Lewis has continued to organize skill workouts and push his teammates in the weeks that have followed spring practice.
Michigan players will lead non-coach workouts throughout the summer. Some 7 on 7 drills, some conditioning work, etc. And Lewis plans to be at the center of it all as a player who is now looked at as a veteran leader.
He was the anchor of Michigan’s No. 3-ranked pass defense last season, finishing the year with 52 tackles (3 1/2 for a loss), 20 pass breakups, a sack and two interceptions (one returned for a score).
Per Pro Football Focus, Lewis was targeted 90 times last season. Only 33 of those passes were completed (36.7 percent), making him the analytical site’s top-graded corner in college football.
In 2016, he’ll be in the spotlight. And he knows it.
But right now, he’s worried about making sure himself — and everyone around him — can handle it.
“I have some of the guys come in and workout (with me), I’m trying to get everyone in, get the rust off,” he added. “We don’t want to get lazy in our technique. So we’re making sure we’ll be ready to go through the summer. That’s the role I’m playing right now.
“And guys are coming in. Jeremy Clark, (Channing Stribling), everyone’s coming in, trying to get in extra work to be the best we can be.”