Kevin Lewis grabbed his belongings after practice and headed out of the locker room like he's done hundreds of times before. However, this time – Tuesday, Sept. 7 – was different. Much different. Lewis had been told earlier in the day by Tom Coughlin that he would be New York's starting middle linebacker when the season opened in Philadelphia. Sure, Lewis has started a couple games before; filling in here and there. But this was different. He was the starting MLB; it was his job. Shortly after Coughlin's official announcement, which came two days later, Lewis explained to TGI how much it meant to him.
Q: You still flying high?
A: It's definitely an honor. My teammates believe in me. My coaches believe in me. But now I have to prove that they made the right decision. I'm definitely excited about it, but now it's time to play.
Q: How did you find out?
A: Coach took me and told me. It wasn't a grand, big deal or anything like that. He just let me know that I was going to be the starter. I know what they expect from me as a starter. So I have to get out there and play well.
Q: Were your surprised when you heard?
A: Yeah. You're put in the starting role the last two (preseason) games, yet you still don't know. It was definitely a surprise. And it was a good surprise, obviously. It's definitely something I've been working towards the whole time I've been here. To finally get put in that position is a great honor and very exciting.
Q: Who was the first person you called after you found out?
A: It really wasn't like that. No, it wasn't anything like that. I'm excited, but let's get to work. It's not something you can sit here and go have a party about. Now it's about showing up. That's what kind of guy I've been. That's how it was when I first made this roster. I was so happy to make it, but I knew I had to prove to them that I still belong here every week. I'm looking at the Mike position just like that. Good, I made it. But I have to play well enough (against Philadelphia) to be the starter next week.
Q: What did you do to win the job?
A: I come to work ready to play every day. I'm one guy that's going to give you effort every day. Other than that, I can't really tell you. That's for the coaches to say. I know, me personally, when I look at myself, I run to the ball and play hard. That's all I've ever done and all I've ever known since I've been around. I guess working hard has paid off for me.
Q: When you went undrafted years ago, could you have possibly seen this happening?
A: It's definitely been an experience for me. I've been cut twice. It's taught me that nothing's ever given to you and that nothing's ever guaranteed in this business. You have to come to work and have to show up every day. Being able to come from being an undrafted free agent to being a starter, I'm very excited. That's one more of my goals that I've reached. But now I have to prove myself every game, every day in practice. Being able to be mentored by Jessie (Armstead) and Micheal (Barrow) has been an honor for me. I watched them come to work and be professionals every day and every Sunday. Those are two great guys I've been able to learn from. That's how I know what to do.
Q: Was there ever a point where you thought it was over?
A: Sure, being cut twice was the lowest point for me. I never worried about what I was doing. The tough thing was not knowing what the organization was thinking or what they were going to do. I never gave up on myself. I just didn't know where I fit in here after I was released both times. Then getting the opportunity to come back and prove myself both times meant that they thought I had to be a pretty good player for them to be giving me another chance.
Q: Was there a point during camp where it appeared that you starting could become a reality?
A: I don't know. You get out there and keep fighting. You just keep fighting. You don't let stuff get in your way and try not to let stuff bother you. Camp is grueling. But you just keep fighting and pounding away. I guess when I got my first start (against the Jets) I thought maybe I can do this thing. ‘Maybe this is my opportunity' is more what I looked at it as.
Q: How have things changed for you on and off the field?
A: My teammates look at me and want me to be a leader out there. I'm a Mike; I'm calling things out on the field. I have to show them during game situations that I can do this. Then they'll have confidence in me to listen to me and do what I tell them to. It's an honor for guys like Michael Strahan and the other guys on this defense to be looking at me as their Mike. I have to prove to them that I can do the job.
Q: How tough is it having to call all the signals?
A: It's definitely nothing that you can take lightly. You have different guys with different attitudes. You have to get them all in the huddle and all on the same page. You're basically a coach on the field. The coaches send you the signal and you deliver it to the guys. They're looking to you on every play. They're looking to you to set up the defense out there. You have to be knowledgeable and definitely have to know what you're doing to get it done.
Q: This must have given your confidence level a big boost, no?
A: Yeah, that's the joy that I got from it. But as soon as you pat yourself on the back, you have to slap yourself on the rear end and say, ‘let's pick it up.' If you don't do those kinds of things, I think you'll find yourself not the starter anymore before too long.
Q: How long is Kevin Lewis going to be New York's starting middle linebacker?
A: I can't answer that question. All I know is that I'm going to give great effort every time I'm out there. That's what I plan on doing. The things that have gotten me to this point, I'm going to continue to do.
A Conversation with MLB Kevin Lewis
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