Thaddeus Lewis came back to Durham to work with a number of future signal-callers at the David Cutcliffe QB College. While he was in town, GoDuke.com had a chance to speak with Lewis about his first season in the NFL and what he sees in the future for himself and his former college program.DURHAM, N.C. - With the NFL lockout still in effect, former Duke quarterback
GoDuke.com: Walk us through what it was like being a first-year NFL player.
Thaddeus Lewis: "Very exciting - a childhood dream coming true just to be in that environment. To be an undrafted free agent and make the team, it was a great experience and you obviously learn from that experience, but at the same time, it was a humbling experience. Once you get to that level, you learn the business side of it."
GoDuke.com: What did you learn at Duke, on the field or off, that helped you in your first NFL season?
Lewis: "Everything. Once you get to the pro level it's really not about the pro coaching, it's about what you learned in college and how fast you can learn their system. Everything Coach Cutcliffe taught me on the field and off the field, in the classroom, translated over to the NFL - how to carry yourself as an individual, and most of all, as a leader that others would want to follow."
GoDuke.com: Was there anything specific on the field that you remember Coach Cutcliffe talking about that you used in your time with the Rams?
Lewis: "Playing fast. That translates over in the games and over into practice. Coach didn't have to tell me to speed up or that the tempo of the NFL game was going to be faster - I already knew that. The biggest adjustment going into the NFL is the mental aspect of it, but you get that here with Coach [Kurt] Roper and Coach Cutcliffe and it mentally prepares you for the next level."
GoDuke.com: The players are still dealing with a lockout right now. What has that been like for you?
Lewis: "It's actually been kind of fun because you get to do things you wouldn't normally be able to do like working with kids, which is another one of my passions, and being around the guys, being able to work out with and be around the guys that I saw come up as freshmen that are now going into their senior year. It's been a fun experience, but at the same time it's like pandemonium because you really don't know what's going on or how things are going to play out. You just have to play it by ear but make sure you're ready. Sometimes I'll go in and watch film with Coach Cutcliffe and do the things that help me stay sharp mentally for when I do go back."
GoDuke.com: What are you hearing about the lockout at this point, or do you not follow it?
Lewis: "I don't really follow it. My agent does a good job texting me almost every day to give me insights - right now they're talking about something happening in mid-July. Hopefully by mid-July we can get ready to go back to work so there can be football in 2011."
GoDuke.com: How important is it for you to get back as soon as possible to take advantage of training camp and preseason games when you have a chance to get more of the repetitions under center, as opposed to the regular season when Sam Bradford will get most of the snaps?
Lewis: "It's very important, especially with a new offense. At the end of the day, you're trying to be that backup quarterback and the competition is all about who can run it faster and do it on the field - this would have been a tremendous learning opportunity for me, but now it's going to be an even more rapid learning curve because I'll just be getting there and you know they want to get Bradford prepared because you know he'll be the starting quarterback. At the end of the day, you have to be a guy that can get mental reps, even if you aren't getting physical reps, and then watch film. Then, when you do get your chance, you need to be able to put it all out on the field."
GoDuke.com: What are you expecting out of Duke's team this year?
Lewis: "Big things. Just like everybody else, you expect to win every game - that should be the mindset of the team and I think that is the mindset of the team as well as the coaches. It's a team that'll be humble but hungry - hungry for success. We have an indoor facility that's being built and that can only get better with more success. I think the team will do a tremendous job this year - I'm going to go out on a limb and say they'll go bowling. I have that much confidence in the coaching staff and the players."