There are any number of factors that may come into play when an NFL player, particularly a young one, leaves behind a 'journeyman' past and finally settles into a role with the right team.
The opportunity may presents itself through injury, shuffling of the depth chart, a scheme that better suits his skills or something else that just causes things to “click.” Whatever the mechanism, sometimes the stars align just so and allow an NFL player to find a place he can call home.
That may be happening now for cornerback LeQuan Lewis with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Signs seem to point to the former Arizona State standout having found his place after bouncing around a number of NFL teams’ practice squads and active rosters, and the speedy corner credits one specific aspect of his makeup with allowing him to weather the storm of uncertainty and eventually take advantage of his opportunity in Tampa.
“My ability to cope and to pick up things,” Lewis said. “The game isn’t going as fast, and I’m constantly getting better and better. As long as I’m not going downhill and I’m always going more uphill, that allows me to stay here and continue to work. It’s just about being a quick learner, and my ability to grasp things has to be at a high level. That’s allowing me to stay around.”
Of course, a game-sealing interception in the Bucs’ Week 10 win over San Diego didn’t hurt Lewis’ stock either, and he’s been seeing even more playing time of late, particularly with fellow corner
An increasing role in the Bucs’ defense, coupled with an intense stretch run as the team looks to secure a playoff berth, means the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lewis. But he says his confidence right now is at a very high level, and aside from his own ability to learn quickly, Lewis says his fellow defensive backs have been instrumental to his smooth transition in Tampa.
“It’s been a wonderful experience, if I had to put it in one word,” Lewis said. “I like the group of guys I’m around, and they’ve been very accepting and have made me comfortable here. The experience has been great.”
Perhaps more than any of his defensive teammates, Lewis says veteran
“You have to lean on a guy like that,” Lewis said. “That’s the only way you can learn this defense, and he’s been here longer than anyone. So yes, that would be smart for me to lean on him and learn from him, and keep communicating with the safeties.”
To say nothing of the playoff implications involved, the Bucs’ schedule down the stretch is quite difficult, featuring a bevy of elite quarterbacks that Lewis and his fellow defenders will be tasked with containing. Drew Brees and Matt Ryan both await the Bucs over the coming weeks, but up first is Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Despite the star-studded names on the docket, Lewis says he and the Bucs have a finely narrowed focus that prevents him from becoming overawed.
“We have to take it one game at a time, and focus on one thing and one thing only,” Lewis said. “This week, it’s the Broncos, and that’s it, point blank, period.
“I don’t think about [those quarterbacks] until they come up,” Lewis continued. “I’m taking it one game at a time, and my main focus is learning this defense and getting comfortable with the schemes, and that’s about it. This week, it’s the Broncos, and that’s my focus. I can’t wander off and think about those guys. When they come, we’ll plan and prepare for them.”
And as for those plans and preparations, one goal stands out above all others for Lewis.
“Make the plays that I’m supposed to make,” he said. “When the chance is there, make the play. That’s it. Make the play when it’s your chance to make it."