Undrafted, Undesired, Underestimated: Kyle Lewis' persistent trek to Green Bay

-- One month.

Just one month.

"If he had another month, I don't know what would happen," said Gerald Lewis of his son, Kyle, who was just signed by the Green Bay Packers a day before the start of training camp. Such circumstances detrimental enough to set him back exponentially in the developmental process in year one.

"The playing field would be absolutely leveled. When you're fast and you're just running and you're not thinking about the plays, then you're on a different level."

"Dad, if I just had a little more time."

Just missing a couple week's worth of work in any team's offseason program is enough to potentially prove deleterious to any player's summer regimen, let alone a player like Lewis who was brought in -- with receiver Adonis Jennings, per the team's transaction report -- the day the Packers reported to camp.

He's now one of the 11 receivers housed on the roster, and one of the handful fighting for a roster spot, including the three rookies drafted by the Packers back in April -- J'Mon Moore in the fourth round, Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth and Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth. There's also the rapidly ascending Jake Kumerow, who is hoping to cling onto a team's active roster as opposed to their practice squad, which he's done each of his first three years in the league.

But the upside for Lewis is that he's multi-faceted; someone whose speed and strength should be the emphasis of utilization as opposed to finding a specific spot for him in a playbook.

His Swiss Army knife-like nature stems back to his early beginnings growing up in San Diego, California. It didn't take long for Gerald and Christina Lewis to realize that their son had the chance to become something special.

The Deal

"He first started playing football in Pop Warner, and he wasn't at all like the biggest kid, he wasn't the fastest -- but he had that heart. He had that work ethic," his father said. "When I let him start lifting weights, I could see it in him that he was going to be a beast, plain and simple. Because he wanted it."

Lewis' physical traits were hard to miss, and they were also hard to attach a specific position to. Once he arrived at San Marcos high school, he learned nine different positions and mastered variously different responsibilities -- whether as a receiver, running back, cornerback, safety, the book was open.

En route to earning an athletic scholarship -- not as a running back or anything of the sort, but as an athlete -- to Cal Poly, Lewis played two primary positions: tailback and receiver.

"He's always been multi-faceted," said his father. "That's how we trained. We trained to be able to do multiple things. Same way in the gym, if you can tell by the way he's built. He's not just an arm guy, or a chest guy or a leg guy -- he's built all the way around.

"He and I made a deal: If you really want to pursue this thing, go to college and play ball, you have to work at it. And every year you have to get better and better, and that's what he did."

Making Some Noise

As a Mustang, Lewis was asked to do a variety of things outside of playing his two specified positions. Among those things was holding up as a blocker.

While his father may have compared his son to Carolina Panthers do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey, that facet of Lewis' game helped him stand out on the collegiate level.

"A lot of receivers, you can't put them on a corner and be like, 'look, the running back is going to be coming around the left side and you're going to need to block a defensive end' -- but he did that," Gerald said. "He did that for four years, so it's nothing new."

Lewis averaged 7.75 yards per carry through four years at Cal Poly, along with 13 touchdowns. He also had 61 receptions and 1,079 yards to his credit, as well as another 12 touchdowns en route to All-Big Sky Conference honors after his junior year. He had a relatively strong case for being the Mustang's top player -- that's why he needed to see the field.

"That" Dad

Adversity comes in many forms. In Lewis' case, it was the way the Mustangs failed to include him in their offense when he may have been their centerpiece. For a majority of Lewis' four years, Cal Poly's offense was stressed around running the ball as opposed to passing.

"The coaches would practice all these plays, all these deep passes, but he would get on for two passes a game," Gerald said.

The Mustangs squared off against the Eastern Washington Eagles in 2016, matching up with current Los Angeles Rams wide receiver, Cooper Kupp. It was this game specifically that Lewis referenced that truly frustrated him.

"When they played him, he was getting 20-25 passes, and it's frustrating as a dad to sit up there in the stands like, 'man, my son can do that.' But, we just refused to throw the ball."

The Mustangs' offense, according to Lewis, was set back rather noticeably. While other teams would pass the ball "30-40 times a game," if the Mustangs just eclipsed 10, that'd be considered "airing it out." For all anyone knows, it could be the reason Lewis' draft stock fell so significantly despite his daunting Pro Day numbers.

Undrafted, Undesired, Underestimated

Lewis had his Pro Day in late March, and he excelled. 

The former Mustang ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash, tested for a 37-inch vertical jump and benched 225 pounds 23 times -- while weighing 203.

There's no possible way to coach speed and strength, both of which Lewis has fine-tuned into making it to the professional level. His 10'09" broad jump apparently isn't even his personal best, as his father has seen him eclipse 11 feet.

It's true: speed and strength are uncoachable. But there's also no possible way to predict falling in the draft, no matter how big, no matter how fast, and no matter how smart you may be.

"I just told him you have to trust the process and you have to do what you can do when you get the ball," said his father. "Even after school was out, going to the draft and the combine and everything, you got guys who caught a lot more balls and they were in a lot more pass-oriented offenses, but he just wanted to show what he can do.

"That was the only thing he could do."

These are almost ideal circumstances for someone with the competitive drive that Lewis boasts. It almost runs in the family -- his father, a 274-pound juggernaut whose fitness habits have helped Lewis' development from the ground-up and his sister, a 13-year-old track star -- to be fueled by such passion for their craft.

"That competition, like you against me? He thrives off of that. If you talk to him, if you look in his eyes, look into his helmet at his eyes, they're piercing -- he has piercing green eyes. When his helmet comes on, it's you against me."

Being ideal circumstances, neither one of the Lewis' would look at Kyle's shortcomings at Cal Poly as "misfortunes," nor would they his draft stock and where his path has taken him.

"It made him who he was, being at Cal Poly. And not doing the things that they could've done, it just showed him that sometimes, everything is not always in your control. You can't get frustrated, you just have to do what you can do when you're given that opportunity. Just leave getting frustrated to your dad."

Destination: Green Bay

Lewis was signed to an undrafted contract by the Detroit Lions following the 2018 draft, however, was released less than two weeks later. From then on, his trek never led him outside of the NFC North.

It took roughly two months for the Packers to bring in Lewis, but that may have been two months too long.

The Packers have an influx of talent at the wide receiver position, and that's not including the newly-acquired tight end Jimmy Graham, who can also function as a 6'7" slot receiver, or running back Ty Montgomery, who offered a similar skill set to Lewis during his collegiate time at Stanford.

It could take some time before anybody on the Packers' coaching staff knows how to properly infuse Lewis into the offense during training camp, but he already has a couple of big plays under his belt.

One of which was a pass over the middle that he used a jolt of speed to split the defenders down the middle of the field after making the catch, and the other was a deep ball down the seam on a pass from quarterback DeShone Kizer, just this past Sunday.

The best case scenario for Lewis is to be given opportunities to showcase, not just his athleticism as a receiver, but his bruising agility as a running back.

An even better case would be for him to find a way to cling onto the roster as a contributor on special teams, whether it's as a gunner on punt coverage with his blazing speed or as a return man, something he did 48 times at Cal Poly.

"The way they use Randall Cobb running the ball and things like that, I don't know if he'll ever get that opportunity, but he can run the ball. He can run the ball, he can catch, he can do all that, and I'm just hoping someone gives him the opportunity to run and catch and show them his value. Because it's different."

Striving for Greatness

"We've always talked about this moment," Gerald said. "Like, when you get there, you can't just be happy with where you're at, you have to want to be the greatest."

A lot of Lewis' comparisons draw similar wavelengths to players such as the New England Patriots' Julian Edelman, the Dallas Cowboys' Cole Beasley and even retired Denver Bronco Wes Welker. But his father has bigger aspirations for his son.

"We talk about Jerry Rice and all the other guys who went there and who came from smaller schools, and got there and worked and worked and worked even though they're in the NFL, even though they were great receivers, they still worked like they were a free agent signing. They still worked like they were a rookie and they were trying to make the team.

"That's how you get great, by working and working and working."

In a crowded group of receivers and fighting to make a name for himself in a small market city where big names prominently grace the street signs to and fro, Lewis is going to need to work tenfold.

If his father's confidence is any indication, his belief that nobody is going to outwork his son -- whether on the field or in the gym -- could hold true.

"I'm proud of my son, I'm a little biased about it, but I've always told him, if you want to do this, you have to be all the way in or I'm not going to be all the way in with you. And he has shown me he's all the way in, so I've got to be all the way in with him.

"Just because you want something doesn't mean it's going to come true. You have to go out and get it. He trains like he wants it, he trains for his opportunity."

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (25)

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hodge555's picture

August 16, 2018 at 05:28 am

Good luck to Kyle of course but I think realistically his best hope, considering who he's up against, would be to catch on with the Practice Squad.

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Lphill's picture

August 16, 2018 at 05:37 am

Tough decisions to make with all these receivers I don't know how many can be kept on the practice squad and I'm sure whoever gets released will be picked up by another team . May the best man win !

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Coldworld's picture

August 16, 2018 at 06:00 am

Wonder if returning kicks is one of his facets?

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Since'61's picture

August 16, 2018 at 07:00 am

Can he return punts or kickoffs? It may be his best shot to make the team. It's great to hear his father speak about him but what are the coaches saying? That's what really matters. Thanks, Since '61

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DraftHobbyist's picture

August 16, 2018 at 07:19 am

Well, put that work ethic to use, work harder than anybody else, and make that time up.

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porupack's picture

August 16, 2018 at 08:07 am

Thanks for nice spotlight article, Zachary. I'll sure root for him.
Seems like a tough year to crack the roster in GB where WR and RBs are loaded with prospects. Also, he might be redundant with some of RCobb and TMontgomery's versatility skills.

A bit short for a TE, but if he's a good blocker? Can he be developed there, the TE position group has been stuffed for now with FAs, but could open up in 2019 and beyond.

Otherwise, Patriots know how to make one year stars and surprise the league out of such guys.

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PackfanNY's picture

August 16, 2018 at 08:22 am

I'll assume he realizes that he is not only "working" out with the Packers but for all the rest of the teams. If he doesn't make the Pack or the practice squad then maybe he catches on with another club or another practice squad. Good luck to him.

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Spock's picture

August 16, 2018 at 09:13 am

Thanks for the article Zach. I always appreciate learning about players I know nothing about. The kid seems to be doing everything right. I hope he catches on with the Packers or another team as I always root for the hardworking, "lunch pail" type guys and he seems to have a lot of untapped talent as well. Nice story.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

August 16, 2018 at 06:16 pm

Appreciate you reading, Spock.

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Qoojo's picture

August 16, 2018 at 09:14 am

I already like him more than Moore.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

August 16, 2018 at 09:27 am

Fun story, practice squad candidate, but more importantly, just a very well-written article. Excellent style, editing, progression of quotes--really fine work.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

August 16, 2018 at 06:16 pm

Thanks Andrew! Glad you enjoyed.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 16, 2018 at 10:15 am

Dene, I wondered that myself. But as others wrote it’s a nice fluff piece and I wish him well.

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Cartwright's picture

August 16, 2018 at 11:05 am

This reminds me of a similar feel good article I read on Don Jackson a couple of years ago, I started rooting for him, then we drafted the 3 RB's, got cut and was never heard from again. Wonder what happened to him. Hope he caught on with another team.

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Oppy's picture

August 16, 2018 at 01:34 pm

The interweb box in front of you, it came with the googlez. The googlez-ware knows the answers.

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Oppy's picture

August 16, 2018 at 01:40 pm

Seriously, though.. It looks like he's still a free agent. Apparently he broke his hand during the 2016 season during two game reps he took. I wonder if the broken hand is what really sealed his fate up to this point.

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Cartwright's picture

August 16, 2018 at 06:38 pm

Had no one responded maybe I would have consulted the all seeing eye, but someone did, thanks ope.

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JerseyAl's picture

August 16, 2018 at 11:27 am

Very nice job, Zach. I mimic what Andrew Lloyd Peth said above.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

August 16, 2018 at 06:17 pm

Thanks Al!

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Johnblood27's picture

August 16, 2018 at 12:07 pm

As I write this I am in San Luis Obispo, home of Cal Poly and the Mustangs.

Lewis seems like a nice enoigh kid. I have a question. If Kyle can run, catch, everything, why didnt he move to RB in a very much run oriented offense?

thats where opportunity was to be had. poor decision making maybe?

best of luck with his chance, but did you see the Packers.com video of the receivers "man hands" drill?

all the receivers caught the ball inches from the jugs gun... EXCEPT Kyle Lewis.

hmmmmmmmm

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Jonathan Spader's picture

August 16, 2018 at 02:07 pm

Just makes me think of that Sienfeld scene "She had man hands".

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

August 16, 2018 at 06:19 pm

He was at Cal Poly for five years and they didn't have a jugs machine the entire time. It's not fun to assume, John.

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Samson's picture

August 16, 2018 at 01:04 pm

He won't make the final 53.
The PS may even be remote.
He's a camp body, like a 4th or 5th camp QB.

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billybobton's picture

August 16, 2018 at 01:04 pm

this is the kind of article that makes being a fan fun, thanks

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TheBigCheeze's picture

August 16, 2018 at 01:20 pm

there's always special teams......

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