Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin has added a few notable transfers since his arrival in College Park, Md., two years ago, but none that carried the weight of the last name “Lewis.” Rayshad Lewis, the son of future Hall of Famer and Ravens’ great Ray Lewis, announced he was leaving Utah State for UMD May 8.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder, who will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2017 season, visited College Park for the first time earlier that weekend, and called Durkin a day later to inform the headman he wanted in.
“Once I decided to officially transfer, and I signed the release from Utah State, I sent the papers around to a bunch of different schools,” Lewis said. “And Maryland, they were like the first one to hit me back and were adamant about getting me on campus. It was Coach Durkin who actually first got in touch with me, so that meant something right there that the head coach wanted me.
“Then I went up there with my mom, my older brother, my sister, who lives in Maryland, and my dad, and it just felt like home. I was up there with Coach Durkin, Coach [Marcus] Berry and a few others, and they made me feel welcome and gave me a great idea what the program is trying to do and where it’s headed. I immediately bought in. I didn’t need to see any other schools. There were a couple others that had shown interest, but, at the end of the day, Maryland made me a priority.”
The Orlando, Fla., native, who attended Bishop Moore high and has lived in the area his entire life, said he discussed the Maryland visit with his family at length before calling Durkin. Apparently they all agreed the Terps would be the best fit for Lewis’ budding football career.
“Maryland was everything I was looking for in a school,” said Lewis, who mentioned his father was all about the Terps following the trip. “We started off at Gossett, and they took me around the whole campus. We saw the stadium, the New Cole Field House, everything – it was really great. And the energy there from the staff, just taking us around, that was great too. The coaches really did a great job connecting with us.
“Then they showed me some film of the offense and what they think I could do there. I could definitely see myself fitting into the system and making plays. I feel like I could learn a lot from the coaches and they could really take advantage of what I do well.”
Even so, it wasn’t an easy decision to leave Utah State. Unlike most true freshmen, Lewis actually had an opportunity to not just play, but start, for the Aggies. He appeared in all 12 of Utah State’s games last year, starting seven. He finished second on the squad with 40 receptions and second with 475 yards.
“I always tell people it was nothing against Utah State. I played as a freshman, and that was an honor and I’m grateful for that,” Lewis said. “But I just didn’t see myself there for the next three, four years. I felt like I needed to showcase myself [at a higher level]. It just wasn’t the best fit for what I felt like I could do.”
And what Lewis can do is create out of the slot. The Floridian described himself as a dynamic receiver/back, who can make plays in the open field and “do a little bit of everything.”
“I’d say I’m unpredictable,” he said. “Whatever situation an offense is put in, I can make a play. If the coach puts it in my hands, I’m going to give 100 percent effort and make something happen. I’m just a playmaker.”
He won’t be making plays in 2017, however. Lewis will sit out the season per NCAA rules, but he’s eager to get the next stage of his career rolling nonetheless. Lewis said he’ll arrive in College Park May 27, three days ahead of when he’s supposed to enroll.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I can do everything there except play [next season]. My main focus right away is acclimating myself to the offense and learning the plays, so when it’s my time to go, I can go full speed. Since I’ll be sitting out a year, there’s no excuse for me not to have the playbook down. Then I’m also going to be getting in the weight room to add a little weight since the Big Ten [has bigger athletes].”
And once Lewis is settled at Maryland and part of the receiver rotation in 2018, he has lofty goals for himself. He said people have always expected greatness from him, and he expects it of himself.
“Growing up [Ray Lewis’] son, it was always tough. People always want more from you. Like, you can’t just be good – you have to always be great,” Lewis said. “You have to be amazing, otherwise people will say, ‘Oh, he’s just there because of his dad.’
“But I’ve always dealt with that head on. I’ve always tried to go above and beyond what was expected of me. My aspirations have never been to be just a good receiver or athlete or student or man. I’ve always tried to take on every challenge full-on and try to be great.”