A Jaguar for 12 seasons, Marcedes Lewis finally rewarded for 'childlike faith'

Stephen A. not nervous about Steelers, Jacksonville rematch (1:17)

Stephen A. Smith is expecting QB Ben Roethlisberger to bounce back from his interception-ridden Oct. 8 performance against the Jaguars. (1:17)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars made the playoffs in Marcedes Lewis' second season.

They won their first game in Pittsburgh before losing to New England in the divisional round. As disappointing as that loss was, the future looked bright: The Jaguars had a great one-two running back punch with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and one of the league's better defenses. Most importantly, they believed they had found their franchise quarterback in David Garrard.

That isn't how it played out.

The Jaguars didn't win more than eight games in any of the nine seasons that followed. Things bottomed out in 2012, when they went 2-14. Lewis was there for all of it -- the embarrassing losses and relocation jokes -- which is why he’s enjoying the Jaguars' playoff run even more than he thought he would.

"I've always had childlike faith every year," Lewis said. "Like, I come in here to work and do my job and do it as best as I can to help the team win, but you just never know what you're going to get year to year. That's how it's been here. So this year, with it being totally different, it's been a treat for me and a joy to come to work."

Lewis is having his most productive season since 2013. He caught 24 passes for 318 yards and a team-high five touchdowns in the regular season and had three catches for 17 yards in the Jaguars' 10-3 AFC Wildcard victory over Buffalo on Sunday.

That isn't the kind of production he had earlier in his career -- he caught 149 passes for 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns from 2010-12 -- but he's in his 12th season and turns 34 in May. Still, he played in all 16 games during the regular season for just the second time since 2012.

Lewis hasn't seen many wins in Jacksonville: five in 2011, two in 2012, just 15 from 2013-16. After he turned 30, Lewis started to wonder if he would be better off finishing his career somewhere else -- find a team with which he would have a chance to get back to the playoffs.

Even so, he signed a three-year extension as his contract was set to expire in March 2016. He had been around for the worst season in franchise history and wanted to be part of the turnaround.

"I just think once I weighed it out, I wanted to be here for this," said Lewis, who ranks third in Jaguars history in receptions (375) and receiving yards (4,502) and second in touchdown catches (33). "And I wanted to be a big part of it, so it's a blessing to be able to see it through.

"I was here for when we were solid, and then we had that slide for those four or five years, and then we're trying to come out of it. I just felt like I've seen everything. Why not experience the best? Who knows? I guess in hindsight, you never really know what's going to happen, but I'm glad I stuck it through."

The Jaguars play Sunday at Pittsburgh in an AFC divisional playoff game. Lewis played in the wild-card playoff game at Heinz Field following the 2007 season, catching two passes for 16 yards and helped spring Garrard on a fourth-down run that led to Josh Scobee's game-winning field goal.

Although it'll be more than 10 years since that Jan. 5, 2008, game, Lewis' memories are still vivid.

"The atmosphere," he said. "Super loud. All them yellow towels. The field wasn't too great, but I just remember it being a hard-fought game, and I feel like nothing has changed about that team as far as how well-coached they are, how hard they play on every play. I don't think anything has changed since 2007. It's going to be a dogfight."

Nose tackle Abry Jones said he can tell that Sunday's playoff game is even more special for Lewis because of what he and the franchise went through over the past decade.

"When you think Jaguars, you think Marcedes," Jones said. "He's a staple here, and the commitment he showed his team even through the bad years to stay here and not really look for anywhere else and to keep competing, it means a lot to him. It means a lot to us.

"Hopefully we can go back up there [and] repeat the same memory for him."