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Buyer Beware of Michigan’s Taylor Lewan

By Jim Weber

When Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan passed on last year’s NFL draft to return to Michigan for his senior season, the narrative was set: Lewan was the epitome of a “Michigan Man” by turning down millions to get his degree and cherish being a senior captain for the winningest program in college football history.

He was known as the goofy offensive lineman that bought a pet pig, got a mustache tattooed on his index finger and loved the University of Michigan above all else.

Unlike Matt Barkley, Lewan’s draft stock hasn’t plummeted from on-field performance as a senior; the left tackle is still considered a Top 10 pick in April’s draft and could possibly go as high as No. 2 to the St. Louis Rams. Rather it is Lewan’s character that has been exposed over the last 12 months that should make any buyer beware before selecting the left tackle.

The red flags started in August when a little-known website called “Washtenaw Watchdogs” published a story about rape allegations against then-kicker Brendan Gibbons from 2009.

The story never gained national attention as the mainstream media stayed away from it, but the report definitely raised eyebrows in Ann Arbor. No charges were filed against Gibbons but the report was back in the news two weeks ago when it was revealed that Gibbons was expelled from the university over these allegations four years after they took place.

How is Lewan tied to this? According to a police report from 2009, Lewan told a friend of the woman that she better not press charges because, “If she does, I’m going to rape her because [Gibbons] didn’t.”

Lewan was never arrested but was warned by police not to make any more threatening statements like this. The fact those words not only went through Lewan’s mind but allegedly left his mouth are despicable.

It appears Lewan didn’t learn his lesson from that 2009 incident because he was questioned after Michigan’s loss to Ohio State on Nov. 30 for allegedly cold-cocking a Buckeyes fan in Ann Arbor the night of the game, punching said fan in the face and the ribs without any apparent provocation. Lewan was questioned about the matter by police in December, denied the accusation and again nothing has come from it. It appears this too will blow over without it affecting Lewan’s draft status.

No, Lewan has not been arrested in either incident or charged with a crime. But he’s either the unfortunate victim of two erroneous allegations or the All-Big Ten tackle has serious character issues that are going to catch up to him at some point.

The last red flag is the way Lewan has lost control of his temper on the football field, most especially in last November’s game against Michigan State. He was seen twisting people’s heads while clutching onto their facemasks on multiple occasions and even brutally ripping a players’ facemask up while he lay on the ground (see below). It was hardly the first time Lewan had been accused of dirty play, it was just the most egregious incident, as this came two years after questionable conduct in the 2011 Michigan State game.

I understand that NFL teams want offensive lineman that play with a mean streak and football is a much dirtier game than people realize, but you don’t want a player that is bordering on the edge of losing self-control.

Lewan has raised serious questions about whether he can keep his temper in check on or off the field in the NFL.

You don’t want a guy getting into disciplinary trouble with the league for incidents like the Michigan State game that turn into a Kyle Turley moment on the field. And in the post-Aaron Hernandez NFL, you also fear Lewan will do something off the field that results in criminal punishment, an embarrassed organization and a wasted draft pick.

Lewan will still be picked very high in the NFL draft because he’s 6-foot-8, 315 pounds and has the ability to be a perennial Pro Bowl left tackle. But if I’m a general manager picking in the first round, I’d be taking a look at every other left tackle on my draft board without Lewan’s red flags and wondering, “Is Lewan really that much better than so-and-so that Lewan’s worth the risk?” At some point, the answer will be “yes.” But for me personally, it wouldn’t be until late in the first round or possibly even the second.

We already knew what kind of player Taylor Lewan was before last fall. But by coming back for his senior year, we learned what kind of person Lewan is. And what we saw is scary.

Because if this is what a Michigan Man has become, Bo Schembechler is rolling over in his grave.

 
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