Spring Cleaning: Jermelle Lewis
Jermelle Lewis
Jermelle Lewis

Posted Mar 20, 2004


His mother calls him Jermelle. But his teammates call him 'Skills', as in, 'He's got skills'. Either way, it's OK for Jermelle Lewis. As he enters his final year on Iowa's campus, Lewis seems poised to finally step in and star as Iowa's starting tailback. His journey to this point has been full of setbacks. Some of those were in his control, others were not. Either way, Lewis has always had amazing abilities and Iowa's coaches have waited patiently to see them on display. Now is his time.

JERMELLE LEWIS, Senior, RB (Bloomfield, CT)

2004 VITALS: 5-11, 216 pounds

2000 VITALS: 5-11, 175 pounds

THE SKINNY: Nicknamed ‘Skills’, because of his incredible talent. Highly rated national recruit coming out of high school. Redshirted in 2000, academically ineligible in 2001, rushed for more than 700 yards in 2002, missed six games in 2003 due to ACL injury suffered that spring. Enters 2004 as the team’s #1 tailback.

THE PAST: HIGH SCHOOL BIO

Lewis was one of Kirk Ferentz’s most heralded recruits back in the class of 2000, his first full recruiting class as Iowa’s head coach.

HIGH SCHOOL HONORS: Lewis was a prep All-American by The Sporting News, first team All-American by SuperPrep…named as Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year and to the all-Hartford Courant team . . . first team all-state as a junior and senior, second team as a sophomore and honorable mention as a freshman . . . first team all-conference for four seasons . . . helped prep team win 37 straight games and claim three straight Class S state titles . . . team captain as a senior

High School Career: scored 54 touchdowns while rushing for nearly 4,000 yards as a junior and senior . . . rushed for 1,623 yards and 25 touchdowns in seven games as a senior, helping prep team outscore opponents 662-58 . . . rushed for 2,187 yards and 28 TDs as a junior . . . scored 84 touchdowns in prep career . . . best time of 4.3 seconds in 40-yard dash . . . won New England indoor state track championships in both 55and 100-meter dashes . . . competed in state weightlifting competitions and also lettered in track and field.

Born 10/20/82 . . . African American world studies major . . . mother is Cathy Andrews . . . attended same high school as QB Jason Manson

HAWKEYE CAREER TO DATE: Lewis redshirted during his true freshman year of 2000. Then in 2001, Lewis suffered a setback as he was ruled academically ineligible. With so much natural talent, strength and speed, Lewis’ failed to take care of his class work. That set back may have cost him a legitimate shot at being Iowa’s starting tailback in 2002. Aaron Greving and Fred Russell were 1-2 coming out of that spring, while Lewis was fighting to get back in good graces with the Iowa coaching staff.

Greving was hampered by injuries in 2002 and eventually quit the team. Russell had earned the starting position, but he missed some time due to injuries. Lewis more than stepped in for Russell, gaining 709 yards on 123 carries as a sophomore, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and scoring eight touchdowns. He had a career long run of 75 yards against Utah State that season.

He also played a key role on Iowa’s kickoff return team that year, busting a 94-yard return for a touchdown against Michigan State just seconds after the Spartans had taken a lead on Iowa. The Hawkeyes would never trail again in Big Ten play that season.

He also made a key block on the opening kick against Southern Cal in the Orange Bowl, a block that sprung CJ Jones for the thrilling TD return on the game’s first play.

Lewis and Russell combined for nearly 2,000 yards rushing in 2002, making them the most productive running back tandem in Hawkeye history.

At the start of Spring practice in 2003, Lewis and Russell were set to do battle for the starting running back position, but Lewis tore his ACL.

Doctors did not expect him to see any action in 2003, but Lewis’ premier physical conditioning and leg strength allowed him to return in the team’s seventh game against Ohio State.

In his second game back, against Illinois at home, Lewis had nine carries for 62 yards, He showed a few of his side-stepping moves as well as his power game in that contest. In the home finale against Minnesota, Lewis led Iowa in rushing with 72 yards on nine carries, including a 34-yard touchdown run.

For the season, Lewis tallied 241 yards on 46 carries, a respectable 5.2 yards per carry.

SPRING 2004 STATUS: Lewis appears to be 100-percent as far as recovering from last year’s ACL and is the #1 running back heading into spring drills.

Now a senior, Lewis is ready to fulfill the promise that he has oozed during his Iowa career.

In my personal opinion, and having watched Iowa football for the past quarter century, Lewis has as much talent as any Iowa running back I have seen. If the offensive line gels early on, and if Lewis can stay healthy, there is no reason to believe that he won’t have one of the most productive seasons and Iowa running back has ever put forth.

In Lewis, you have a player that can catch the ball out of the backfield, something that Iowa was remiss to do with Russell. This is significant, as teams put in nickel package personnel last season when Russell came out of the game.

Lewis can stay in the game and be a triple threat: as a runner, a receiver and as a blocker in pass protection.

His backup should be RS frosh Albert Young. Young is listed at 5-11, 207 heading into the spring, and based on some conversations I have had with members of the Iowa coaching staff, Young might be one of the best running back prospects Iowa has ever had. More in him in a future profile.

THE FUTURE: The sky is, and always has been, the limit with Jermelle Lewis. When he is healthy and running downhill, there is nothing he can’t do with the football. He has the best mix of power and speed of any Iowa back in the last 25 years or more. Sedrick Shaw had the power, Tavian Banks had the speed, Lewis has both.

If healthy, 1,100 yards rushing this year seems a forgone conclusion. With that type of production, he should have a shot at 1st team all Big Ten. Remember, NCAA teams have an 11-game regular season schedule this year, and Russell played the previous two seasons as Iowa’s starter with 12-game regular season slates.

Again, if healthy, Lewis has a chance to go on the first day of the 2005 NFL draft, at worst. If he has the type of season that the Iowa coaching staff expects him to have, he could sneak into the late first round, or at least a solid 2nd round choice. He squats more than 600-pounds, something that helped him recover from his ACL injury quicker than anyone expected.

Lewis is the type of player, like Bob Sanders, who could put up some impressive on the field numbers, then back those numbers up with a great NFL combine workout.

Since the nickname of ‘The Freak’ is already taken in the NFL, Lewis will stick with ‘Skills’. But he is a freakish athlete whose time has finally come.


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