As the Colts' defensive line continues to produce sacks at a historic pace, there's one player who, despite not putting up team-leading numbers, has proven to be the heart and soul of the group.
Tyquan Lewis, the second longest-tenured player in the group, is finally healthy after a grueling stretch of injuries.
"We all love Tyquan," defensive line coach Nate Ollie said. "Just his leadership that he brings to the group, the way he mentors people and all the things he went through. He went through the two injuries two years in a row and that can really get people down and depressed and give up on life. But you see him every day and he's smiling. He's asking, 'What can I do? How can I help?' It's really like a servant leader."
Earlier this week Lewis was voted the team's 2023 Ed Block Courage Award Recipient, an honor that recognizes players from all 32 teams for their courageous play.
"I just try to be myself every day," Lewis said. "I just want to be the best version of myself each and every day. I'm not really a talkative guy. I mean, I talk to a lot of people, but I'm not really a 'rah-rah' speech guy. I just do my job. I do my job, I speak when spoken to and I do the right thing. It costs zero dollars to do the right thing and be a good person."
Since being selected by the Colts in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Lewis has established himself as a leader both on and off the field. However, his career has not been an easy one.
His biggest hurdles came in 2021 and 2022 when, nearly a year apart, Lewis suffered patella injuries to opposite legs. After having both seasons prematurely ended, Lewis easily could have grown dismayed and questioned his future in the NFL.
Instead, Lewis maintained a sunny disposition and relentlessly rehabbed to ensure he would be good to go by the time the 2023 season began.
"I was frustrated at first," Lewis said in August. "But, I just go into the mindset that if anything happens, I just say, 'F it.' Because in life things happen and it's all about how you respond to it. So like, when adversity hits, I don't get down and out, I'm always optimistic, I'm always pushing through. You know, things happen, so what are you gonna do? Pout?"
Through the first 13 games of the season, it appears Lewis' persistence has paid off. Playing in double-digit games for the first time since 2020, Lewis is on track to have the best year of his career.
|Tackles for loss
"It's been unbelievable to see," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Obviously, having two catastrophic injuries two years in a row can really set you back physically and mentally. But I mean, seeing the way he attacked each and every day, his process and his faith – he's been very inspiring to me. A lot of guys, they'll get down in the dumps, some guys will be depressed and I'm sure he had those moments, but he just continued to trust the process and the cards that he was dealt."
Lewis' secret to his production is his dedication to his craft. Whether it be his past injuries or off-the-field distractions, Lewis said when it's game time, none of that matters anymore.
"Sometimes, I don't really think about my injuries," Lewis said. "I try not to reflect or dwell on things like that. I do a really good job of when I cross the white lines, anything that's on my mind I just don't even think about it. I don't let it faze me because when you cross the white lines and you hit play on a camera, I don't think nobody really cares. So, you just gotta put the best product out there and that's what I try to do every Sunday."
Lewis' ability to overcome trials and tribulations has helped to make him a valuable resource for the team's younger defensive linemen. A prime example of this is the impact he's had on third-year defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo.
Coming out of Vanderbilt, Odeyingbo had generated first-round buzz ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. However, after tearing his Achilles ahead of the Senior Bowl, his draft stock took a dip and allowed him to fall into the Colts' lap with the 54th overall pick.
As he was juggling rehab and his adjustment to NFL life, Odeyingbo said that Lewis was a big help during that process.
"He was extremely helpful with just getting accustomed to being in the NFL on a day-to-day basis," Odeyingbo said. "Then also working through an injury, he had already worked through some injuries before, so he was extremely helpful. He kind of puts you on the right path and tells you when you're doing the wrong things."
As the Colts prepare for their final weeks of the regular season, Lewis hopes he can have a similar impact on the rest of the locker room as the battle rages on for playoff spots in the AFC.
"It would mean everything to me, not just to get into the playoffs but to win," Lewis said. "All my life I've been a winner, especially in big games. I live and die for big games. I love championship-level football. When I was in high school, I was a champion. All my life, it's been like championship, championship - even in college. Then when I came to the pros we went to the playoffs my first year and then my third year. So, we have to continue and maintain this style of football that we're playing, especially with the weeks to come so that we can get to where we need to be."