Who is Dion Lewis?
Earlier this week, Patriots’ running back Dion Lewis signed a two-year deal worth up to $4.8 million. While most football fans know who Lewis is by now, I doubt they know how difficult his road to this deal was.
In high school, at Blair Academy in New Jersey, Dion Lewis made a name for himself by rushing for 1,243 yards and scoring 26 total touchdowns in his senior season alone. Coming out of high school, Lewis was rated one of the country’s top 20 backs by Rivals and he committed to play with the Pittsburgh Panthers in college.
At 5 foot 9 inches and 195 pounds, Lewis wasn’t the biggest back in college, but he burst onto many NFL teams’ radars after his freshman season when he rushed for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns. He earned a myriad of achievements after his freshman season, including: finishing third nationally in rushing yards per game, winning Big East offensive player of the year and Rookie of the year, being first team All-Big East, a second team All American, and even more.
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In his Sophomore season with Pittsburgh, his stats dipped down as did his carries: Lewis had 109 less carries in his sophomore season compared to his freshman season because he had to share carries with fellow sophomore Ray Graham. However, Lewis still rushed for 1,061 yards and 13 touchdowns, earning comparisons to another Pittsburgh Panther great, Tony Dorsett.
After his collegiate career ended, Lewis was a highly touted running back, and a projected 5th or 6th round draft pick. At the combine, scouts said that Lewis possessed “great feet and quickness,” but that he “lacks power and bulk.” Despite the worries about his size, Lewis was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 149th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
His two years spent with the Eagles were fairly insignificant; he played in 24 games, rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Then, in April 2013 when Chip Kelly began to revolutionize the Eagles’ offense, Lewis did’t fit into his system and he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Lewis’ stint with Cleveland was even less noteworthy than when he was with the Eagles. He had no stats and was cut by the team on August 30, 2014.
Aug 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Dion Lewis (28) makes a pass reception against St. Louis Rams linebacker Johnny Millard (48) during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Rams won 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
On September 9th, 2014, Dion Lewis was signed by the Indianapolis Colts, and then he was released a week later. Many players’ careers don’t survive jumping from team to team like Lewis did, but he worked hard, and eventually caught a break.
On New Year’s Eve in 2014, the New England Patriots signed Lewis to the team. Bill Belichick saw something in the running back during training camp and he made the team’s 53 man roster. Lewis’ luck would continue when the NFL issued the Pats’ starting running back, LeGarrette Blount, a one game suspension for substance abuse.
Dion Lewis seized this opportunity. In week one against the Steelers, he rushed for 69 yards to go along with his 51 receiving yards. His performance in that game was good enough for him to get some reps at running back when Blount came back in week two against the Buffalo Bills. Lewis would yet again prove that he could play well in the league when he had 98 receiving yards to supplement his 40 rushing yards and one touchdown.
He added another rushing touchdown to his season total in the Patriots’ week three rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Those two TDs matched the amount he had scored in his entire career prior to this season.
Lewis has now become one of the premier running backs in the Pats’ backfield after not even playing a game during the regular season in 2013 or 2014.
One big aspect of Lewis’ game that the Patriots are utilizing that other teams did not, is using Lewis as a receiving threat out of the backfield. With Philadelphia in 2011 and 2012, Lewis had a total of 3 receptions. Comparitavely, in 3 games this season Lewis has 15 receptions for 179 yards.
Once again, the mastermind Bill Belichick has found a player that looked like he was washed up and fit him into the Pats’ system where he has become one of the offenses’ premier weapons.
So, who is Dion Lewis? Oh, just a former no-name NFL player who has become a running back on the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots roster for the next two years.