It was not until he learned to appreciate the value of film study that Myron Lewis finally started to show up on the highlight reels.
Now, when NFL scouts show up at the Vanderbilt football offices — which they do almost daily — presumably the first player they want to see on tape is the senior cornerback out of Pompano Beach, Fla.
“Right now, I like watching film,” Lewis said. “When I first started coming in, I couldn’t stand watching film. Now I understand how important watching film is to me and to the team and to making plays.”
Early projections are that Lewis easily is the best NFL prospect among the current Commodores’ senior class. NFLdraftscout.com ranks him as the No. 8 senior cornerback in the country and a likely third-round selection.
He has the size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) that NFL teams look for at that position but don’t often find. In fact, he is the tallest cornerback among the top 25, according to the Web site, and has four inches and 25 pounds on former VU cornerback D.J. Moore, a fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears this past spring.
Yet it does not take a scout’s intimate knowledge of the game to recognize Lewis’ ability to make a big play.
He was the one who sealed the Music City Bowl victory with an interception in the final minute. Similarly, he locked up a triumph over Auburn with an interception as the Commodores won their fifth straight game to start last season. Both games were nationally televised, which meant millions witnessed his heroics.
“He’s a good playmaker,” coach Bobby Johnson said. “He’s got ball skills, and he’s covering a guy they’re trying to get the ball to most of the time – one of their better players. So he’s going to have some opportunity to make plays.”
Three times in 2008, Lewis had a sack and an interception in the same game. He finished tied for the team lead with five sacks and second on the team with five interceptions. Only once in the final six contests did he not have a sack, an interception or a forced fumble.
As a sophomore, he broke up 12 passes — the most by a VU player in more than a decade — and also had a team-high two forced fumbles and shared the team lead with two fumble recoveries.
Through the first two games of this season, half of the Commodores’ eight passes defended were courtesy of Lewis. He also played well Saturday in the loss to Mississippi State.
“He’s been able to be around the ball a lot, and a lot of that’s a credit to him because he does a lot of film work, and he gets himself ready to play mentally,” secondary coach Jamie Bryant said. “I think it’s helped him tremendously. Myron’s a guy who wanted to start watching Western Carolina [Vanderbilt’s season-opening opponent] back in June and July, and he was going and getting tape from the video guys.”
Lewis was hard-pressed to estimate how much time he spends a week watching film other than to say, “Anytime I have some free time.” He likes to gather as much information as possible on an opponent’s tendencies based on personnel groupings, location on the field, etc.
It wasn’t always that way. Bryant chuckled when told that Lewis recounted his initial resistance to film study.
“I remember a lot of young guys like that,” Bryant said. “Kids, when they first come here they don’t understand a lot of times what it takes. It’s going to take a lot of hard work out (on the practice field), obviously, but a lot of your preparation is spent in the film room. You have to watch guys; you have to watch how people release versus press and bump-and-run coverage and all those kinds of things.”
Lewis actually previewed his big-play ability as a four-year starter for Pompano Beach High School, where he recorded 16 interceptions, 70 pass receptions and more than 30 touchdowns in his career.
He admits now that his knack for such things has been enhanced in the film room.
“Just knowing what routes they’re going to run and what they like to do in certain situations, that puts you in better position to make plays,” he said.
What he does not do is rewind in his own mind mistakes he makes during the game. The interception against Boston College, for example, came just minutes after he bit on a double-move by a receiver and was beat for a long touchdown.
“I think he was upset with himself, but he wasn’t downhearted,” Johnson said. “He wanted to go back out and play again and try to help us win. If he had boo-hooed the rest of the game, he probably wouldn’t have made that interception. So I was proud of him for coming back and making that play.”
With nine weeks — possibly more — to go in this season, Lewis is one reason for scouts to keep coming back to Vanderbilt. After all, he’s given them every reason to think he’ll be something to see when they do.
“Just being a good defensive back, I feel that I should make plays on the field, make plays for the team and make plays for the defense in order for us to be successful,” Lewis said. “I don’t take it as a responsibility, really, but I take it as my job and my role.”
In his case, it’s a starring role.