Productive Off-Season Paying Off For Jamaal Lewis

Redshirting is never an easy task. Players who undergo that experience are expected to work harder than their peers in the team's conditioning program, while knowing they won't be playing a down of football all year. However, some players come out of this endeavor physically and emotionally stronger. Tight end Jamaal Lewis who shined this spring session is a perfect example of this theory. Lewis talked to the DevilsDigest about his journey and his expectations for the upcoming season.

The ASU offensive coaching staff has always desired to heavily involve the tight end position in their explosive arial attack. Judging by what has transpired the last few weeks Lewis can help accomplish that feat. "I had a very good spring." Says the Colorado Springs, Co native, "I worked very hard in the off-season and I'm just happy it's all paying off. Last year was tough. You prepared hard every week knowing that you weren't gonna play. But that allowed me to be more in the weight room and work on my conditioning." Case in point – since last season, the tight end added 12 pounds of muscle to his 6-4 227 frame.

Coming into the 2003 season, some believed that Lewis, who grabbed 85 passes for 1203 yards and 19 touchdowns in his last two years at Rampart High School, may take a back seat to heralded JC transfer Aaron Austin. Sure enough, the redshirt freshman, as well as the other players at his position, have arguably outplayed Austin so far. Lewis says folks shouldn't discount any player and his ability to contribute. "You can't count anybody out because each of us has something else to offer. Some are better blocking, some are better catching…I know our tight end spot will be very deep, and we have the personnel to play in all the different situations. We all push each other in practice to be better. We need all our four tight ends to play well so we can help the team."

When he signed with the Sun Devils, the book on the two-time all-state player was that he's a finesse tight end that is clearly a better receiver than blocker. Judging by his performance in the spring, it is quite evident that his playing attributes have been re-defined. "My blocking is most definitely catching up to my receiving. It just takes a while to know all the plays before you're totally confident. I knew that if my blocking didn't improve, that I would get less chances to play, so I just put my mind to it." The tight end acknowledged the fact that outgoing starter, Mike Pinkard, is a big reason for his overall improvement in his play. "Pinkard and I are good buddies. We weren't only teammates, but really good friends. He helped a lot with the routes and the plays. He really inspired me to work hard on my game. What you see out there right now is a lot thanks to pink." These days there's another rocky mountain state high school product he hopes to forge a close relationship with, in hopes of putting some big numbers on the board. "It's great playing with a quarterback like Andrew Walter. Hopefully he'll look at me more because we're both from Colorado (smile)."

Jamaal Lewis believes that he has "Accomplished all my goals coming into the spring. I feel very comfortable in the offense right now." If last season proved anything, it is that a capable tight end in coach Dirk Koetter's offense can be a well executed weapon that can challenge already over-stretched opposing defenses. Lewis has waited patiently for his chance to become that weapon. If his improvement in his football skills fully matches his improvement conditioning wise, 2003 could yield hefty dividends indeed for the tight end and his team.

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