The last four years has been a roller coaster ride for Tennessee Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan.
After experiencing the highest of highs and lowest of lows, it appears that the former Wolverine has endured to become a cornerstone piece of a young team on the rise.
Lewan was one of the most talented and decorated offensive linemen in all of college football his first three years at Michigan. In his junior season (2012) he earned first-team All Big Ten honors as well as being named a first-team All American.
He was also named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Lewan was riding a wave of positive publicity until a missed block against South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney led to the “hit heard around the world” on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl.
Vincent was nearly decapitated by Clowney…losing both the ball and his helmet. Clowney recovered the fumble to basically secure the victory in what was a one point contest in the second half.
The hit instantly turned Clowney into a national phenomenon…and Lewan into a national punchline.
With an entire offseason of ridicule to endure, Lewan responded with a spectacular senior season…earning back to back first-team All Big Ten, first-team All American, and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors.
The Tennessee Titans rewarded Lewan by selecting him with the 11th overall pick of the 2014 draft…but the roller coaster ride was just beginning.
New head coach Ken Whisenhunt named Lewan a team captain as a rookie in a move that seemed to backfire miserably.
Lewan was brash in his talks with the media, publically stating how the team needed to be focused and disciplined whenever a microphone was placed in front of him. But on the field it was Lewan himself that was guilty of such things more often than not.
Something that had to wear thin on his teammates and coaches.
So much so that Lewan was stripped of his captaincy a year later when interim coach Mike Mularkey took over. And to make matters worse, his banner that hung on the outside of Nissan Stadium was taken down and replaced by newcomer Brian Orakpo.
Things got so bad that many speculated Lewan would be replaced in the 2016 draft when Tennessee held the number one overall pick. Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil was regarded as a can’t miss prospect in the months and weeks leading up to the draft, until the now infamous “bong mask” tweet caused his stock to plummet on draft day.
Instead of being replaced, Lewan was given a reprieve when the Titans selected tackle Jack Conklin to play alongside him. A move that…looking back…appeared to change the beleaguered lineman for good.
Lewan returned for the 2016 season in the best shape of his career, and more importantly, he returned to some much-needed good news.
The new front office elected to move away from coach Whisenhunt’s multiple package pass happy approach to run a smash mouth ground oriented offense. The same offensive approach that allowed Lewan’s best skill sets to flourish while at Michigan.
And he responded with his first Pro Bowl season.
Lewan became the anchor of a well-balanced, dominant offensive line for Tennessee last season. An offensive line that finished in the top three in rushing yards and fewest sacks allowed.
In one season Lewan transformed himself from a potential first round bust into one of the best young left tackles in the entire league, so it was great to see the Titans reward his efforts by picking up his fifth year option this offseason.
Good for you, Taylor Lewan.