Jourdan Lewis is 21 years old and listed at 5 feet 11 inches, 186 pounds. He’s one of college football’s top athletes at one of its most challenging positions — cornerback — and is in what most people would call the best shape of their lives.
And yet, speaking to a group of reporters Tuesday, he sounded like a man starting to feel his age.
“As a freshman, I felt like I never had to pay attention to anything like (taking care of my body),” Lewis said. “Just go out there and play. But now I have to go out there and warm up 30 minutes before I get out there. … I can’t eat everything now, my metabolism is slowing down, I’ve been getting a little bigger.”
Lewis made his return to action Saturday against Penn State after missing the season’s first three games with nagging injuries that trace back to his core.
He wasn’t pleased with his performance — which saw him record a tackle for loss and break up a pass — and admitted some rust. He was unabashed in conceding he held a Penn State receiver, due in part to that rust. And he especially wasn’t shy in saying that he felt his soreness after the game.
“My first game back, it really hurt,” Lewis said. “I have to be honest. I haven’t been through anything physically (challenging) like that in a while.”
Lewis is lucky, though, to get that rust out in a 39-point win. His next game may not allow for him to be so cavalier in taking or admitting penalties.
Michigan has blown through its first four opponents, winning by a combined margin of 153 points. But when No. 8 Wisconsin comes to town, the Wolverines will be facing a team that is capable of burning them on both sides of the ball.
With redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook now under center, the Badgers spread the ball around in their 30-6 win over then-No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday. Five different receivers had at least two catches, led by junior Jazz Peavy, who had four receptions for 96 yards.
Peavy, listed at 6-foot-1, is one of many Badger receivers who will pose a physical challenge for the Michigan secondary. And with the Wolverines losing their tallest cornerback, Jeremy Clark, for the season with an ACL injury, Lewis will need to be at the top of his game in a hurry.
“We’re really preparing for those receivers,” Lewis said. “Those guys are big and physical and fast.”
While Lewis says he normally likes to lead by example — and All-American play is not a bad example to set — his injury forced him to become more vocal early in the season.
“If you can’t go out there and play, you have to impact the team in different ways,” Lewis said. “So I definitely was more vocal in trying to inspire those guys to play at their best.”
Now Lewis is back on the field, and he can go back to letting his play do the talking. He was not satisfied with his first game back, saying he wants to be more technically sound going forward.
But Lewis’s most important plays are no doubt ahead of him.
“I feel like I’m at full speed,” Lewis said. “Does it hurt a little bit? Yeah. But you have to play through that a little bit.”