Five years ago, when Tyrone Lewis was playing for Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown, Pa., he got a phone call from NFL Pro Bowler Troy Vincent. Two decades prior, Vincent was a star performer in football and basketball at Pennsbury High School in nearby Fallsington Township, Pa. He called to give Lewis some advice on picking which sport to pursue in college.
At the time, Lewis was getting recruiting attention from Big Ten football programs like Minnesota and Vincent’s alma mater, Wisconsin, but was more passionate about basketball.
“Do what you love to do,” Vincent told Lewis. “Go where your heart is at.”
Lewis’ loyalty was to basketball, and when Niagara University coach Joe Mihalich showed the strongest interest in him, Lewis decided to come here for college. In four years, he defined a legacy as one the most productive and spectacular Purple Eagles of all time.
Once again, Lewis may be presented with the choice to play football or basketball. This time he won’t make a sentimental choice. It’ll be a business decision.
On Monday, Lewis worked out for scouts from five NFL teams — the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, and the team that first contacted him about trying to make it as pro football player, the Green Bay Packers. Personnel men from the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles have also reached out to him in recent weeks.
Dressed in all black — the color he wore as a standout cornerback, receiver and kick returner for Truman — with a patch of Niagara purple on his shiny Under Armour cleats, Lewis performed the standard “pro day” drills on Niagara’s synthetic turf field.
“I did the 40, the broad jump, the shuttle, some back pedaling and breaking to the ball, ran some routes,” he said afterward. “Obviously, the technique was a little shaky, a little rusty, but it was fun.”
Lewis said he got good feedback from the scouts and was told he has the athletic ability to play in the NFL if he can put some weight on his lithe, 180-pound frame. He expects that after the draft concludes April 24, he’ll be contacted by one or more of the teams and invited to rookie camp.
Having spoken several times over the past few weeks with close friend Steve Slaton, the Houston Texans running back, Lewis is aware of how difficult it is for an undrafted free agent to make an NFL roster, especially one who did not play college football.
The idea of playing in the NFL excites Lewis, but he doesn’t want to jeopardize his earning potential as a basketball player to chase that dream. He said he’d be reluctant to turn down a lucrative offer overseas if he didn’t think he had a legitimate chance to make an NFL roster.
“It’s not all about the money, but that plays a big part,” he said. “I have a family to take care of. Times are a little hard right now for my family. If I have an opportunity to take care of them financially, I’m going to take it.”
Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at 282-2311, ext. 2258.