Connecticut has put out some solid NFL prospects. Jermelle Lewis was and is one of the top all time and easily the best running back prospect. Here we take a look at what he did and where he is now.
I have never met Jermelle Lewis personally but I still consider him a friend. For the past seven years I have had the privilege of playing fantasy football against him. I am good friends with his brother Rob who some of you may know as @mrMayhem_IDP on Twitter. When talking football with these two guys you can obviously tell they have great football brains. Jermell Lewis is a top all-time Connecticut football recruit.
Jermelle played running back at Bloomfield High School. Jermelle was a four star recruit, the number 72 overall , number 7 overall running back, and number one recruit from Connecticut after his senior season in 1999 per 247 Sports. After that senior season Lewis received Prep All American honors as well as the Gatorade Player of the Year for Connecticut. Jermelle received offers from the likes of Florida and other power conference teams before deciding to commit to the University of Iowa. Lets take a look into the career of Jermelle Lewis.
Jermelle Lewis committed to Iowa in 2000 after receiving multiple top division one school scholarship offers. In 2000 he redshirted and did not receive a carry his first official year. His Sophomore season though you were able to see why he was so highly recruited. He had a very similar build to Matt Forte with more of a power running style. Both were larger backs who were quick and elusive with great lower body strength which allowed for superior tackle breaking.
Though Forte may have been a better receiving back, maybe one of the best receiving backs in recent history, Lewis was no slouch. He mostly just did not get the opportunity as a receiver as it was not as big of a part of offensive gameplans in the early 2000’s. Though he managed only 16 receptions for his career his yards per reception average was 11.3 for his career and two of those receptions went for touchdowns. He showed great chops as a receiver and had he been a prospect in today’s NFL he may have been even more highly recruited.
During the 2002 season Lewis finished with 123 carries and 709 rushing yards at 5.8 yards per carry. He also totaled 10 touchdowns and added another touchdown on a kick return. He played behind Junior Fred Russell for the season but I would not really call it a backup role. It was more of a running back 1A and 1B. Russell received 220 carries for 1,264 yards at 5.7 yards per carry and nine touchdowns. He was a running back ahead of his time with the rare combination of size, speed, and agility.
Lewis was as powerful as he was elusive. He stood at 6’1 and 215 Lbs. and had some serious boogie behind him. Any man who attempted arm tackles on Lewis failed miserably. Unfortunately I do not have the rights to post any footage I have found but if you look up the 34-9 destruction they had over the #9 ranked Michigan Wolverines you will find a wonderful performance. In the second half alone Lewis rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the rout of Michigan handing them the team’s worst loss since 1967.
Specifically though if you watch highlights of the game look for Lewis’ second touchdown to put the Hawkeyes up 31-9. Iowa runs an option and Lewis takes the shovel pass. After the ball is in his hands he follows a beautiful block by his lineman, sets up the next block perfectly for his wide receiver and then just runs right through the safety who did not stand a chance at taking him down en route to the touchdown.
Lewis helped lead the Hawkeyes to a share of the Big 10 Title with an 11-2 record while earning an invite to the Orange Bowl against USC. Unfortunately Iowa lost the Orange Bowl 38-17 and Lewis was held to only two carries. The game flow unfortunately negated the run game for Iowa as the team as a whole only rushed 22 times and that includes eight carries from the team’s quarterback Brad Banks.
After such a promising campaign in 2002 Lewis unfortunately tore his ACL during spring activities in 2003 forcing him to miss the first six games of the season. Over the remaining six games he received 46 carries as the Hawkeyes eased him back in hoping not to cause a setback. Still he made the most of those carries rushing for 5.2 yards per carry, 241 yards and two total touchdowns.
Then unfortunately again after only four games in 2004 Lewis tore another ACL which in turn ended his playing career. Lewis finished his promising career with 23 games played, 1,330 total yards, 5.1 yards per carry, and 13 total touchdowns. Lewis will go down as being part of one of the best recruiting classes and teams that Coach Kirk Ferentz ever had. That team had the likes of future NFL stars Dallas Clark, Nate Kaeding, Jonathan Babineaux, and Bob Sanders (who was actually Lewis’ roommate for a short time).
Though a little slimmer, my favorite pro player comparison, made by myself, would be Larry Johnson formerly of the Chiefs. The running style though was similar, powerful, patient, and elusive with a nose for the endzone. We all saw what Larry Johnson did in the NFL and it leaves us wondering, what if Lewis avoided injury?
Jermelle Lewis is Still Part of the Game
Though Lewis’ career was cut short he has remained part of the game. Lewis now 36 is the offensive coordinator of the Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School Football team. He has made it a point not to dwell on what happened and ended his athletic career but instead share his experiences and knowledge of the game with the student athletes. Lewis also has his own business called Prime Performance Athletics, a company in which he helps train young Iowa athletes.
Lewis has been said to have a great connection with the student athletes and was a candidate in 2018 to become the team’s next head coach. Ultimately the team went with the Defensive Coordinator for the position. The students look up to Lewis knowing his past as a highly touted high school player himself. His knowledge for the game and thirst to succeed help push the kids and he is working on turning the Cedar Rapids team into a winning program.
Lewis still attends Iowa Hawkeyes football games whenever he has the chance. He truly believes in the comradery that comes with being part of the Iowa family. He is always wearing his alumni ring to the games and is a huge advocate for the program.
I had a chance to catch up with Jermelle recently via talk and text so I could ask him a few questions. He happily accepted the interview and it was real nice talking to him. You really get the sense of his passion for the game talking to him and anybody who knows Mell and his brother Rob, they love the game. Here is a quick interview we had together.
Joe: How did it feel being so highly recruited out of high school?
Jermelle: Honestly, I knew I was blessed to be in that position. I worked extremely hard at my craft and dedicated all of my energy to being the best. For me, it was an opportunity to compete against the Nation’s best.
Joe: What other schools did you have scholarship offers from?
Jermelle: I had scholarship offers from Syracuse, N.C. State, Boston College, Maryland, Nebraska, and Florida (they offered me a week before signing day).
Joe: What made you choose Iowa?
Jermelle: The people and support system set up for the student athletes was second to none. I also saw an opportunity to compete for playing time on offense and special teams.
Joe: Who was your all-time favorite teammate?
Jermelle: Had quite a few but I’d have to say it was Mo Brown. He was a stud wide receiver from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The connection was unreal and most importantly, we held each other accountable on and off the field.
Joe: How did you get the nickname “Skills”?
Jermelle: LOL!!! I’m as modest as they come, but since you ask, it was a culmination of performances over a four month span. From dusting veteran LB’s and DB’s in summer drills to showing out on the dance floor, I did it well. We actually had a talent show during 2 a day camp where I performed and dance routine my boy Chris Jones and I did in High School. The fellas were blown away, and the rest was history.
Joe: What was it like rooming with Bob Sanders?
Jermelle: So, we roomed together for maybe a summer. He was what we call “boo’d up” at the time so he was never there. I will say this though, Bob Sanders was the guy I’d look for when it was time to compete.
Joe: Was there a pro who you modeled your game after?
Jermelle: Easy, Walter Payton. Healthy balance of speed, power, and quickness. What I tried to emulate most was his balance. He would EFFORTLESSLY slip defenders and find space to run. #Sweetness
Joe: Who would you say is a good pro comparison for yourself?
Jermelle: Never really thought about it to be honest. I think my comparable to the backs in today’s NFL would be Lamar Miller.
Joe: What type of run scheme did you prefer to run, outside zone or power?
Jermelle: Haaaaa! I don’t prefer any just get me the rock coach!
Joe: You are the Offensive Coordinator for the Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School football team, what type of offense do you run?
Jermelle: We run Triple Option/Power Read
Joe: How hard was it after you tore your ACL the second time? What were your thoughts?
Jermelle: This was probably the toughest time of my life because it seemed like everything I’d worked for was unraveling. My Senior season was cut short just as we started building chemistry offensively. My depression led to bad decision making and ultimately legal trouble. I tell my boys all the time, Don’t go through your battles alone. Let people help you restore your passions.
Joe: If you had one message or piece of advice for aspiring athletes today, what would it be?
Jermelle: Grind hard and stay humble. Enjoy the process because there is nothing more powerful than you.
Joe: One last question, are you going to finally win the National Mayhem D-League belt this year or will I take it home a fourth time?
Jermelle: LOL, I’m on your ass!
Jermelle Lewis was a very special and gifted running back and I know for sure he would have been a productive NFL running back. He is also a great person and helps use his knowledge for the game and fitness to help young aspiring athletes reach there potential. Jermelle Lewis has a beautiful family and is a great family man. I am very lucky for being so close to Rob Goggins, Jermelle’s brother, as it led me to friendship with both of them. Jermelle and Rob are two of the funniest, bright, and motivated people I have ever met and am lucky to have met them. With that said, your fantasy league is still mine boys!