<
>

With help from mom, Ravens' Alex Lewis perfects (offensive) line dancing

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Alex Lewis has been the Baltimore Ravens' most valuable backup lineman this summer.

Three weeks into training camp, injuries have forced the rookie fourth-round pick to line up at left tackle and left guard with the first-team offense. When it comes to this offensive-line dancing, there's really no better option than Lewis.

After all, he took dance for 10 years at his mother's studio.

Asked if dancing helps a lineman's footwork, Lewis said, "I'll tell you it's true for my mother, just to make her happy."

Football players have often performed well on "Dancing With The Stars." There are just not many instances of players who were dancers before taking up football.

Lewis wasn't exactly a willing participant. Growing up, he didn't want to dance. He wanted to play football.

But before he could follow his father's footsteps into the NFL, Lewis followed his mother's passion. Kimberly Lewis founded the Phoenix Suns dance team in 1990 and has owned a dance studio in Arizona for more than two decades.

For four to five hours a day, Alex Lewis took all forms of dance: ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap and acrobatic. It's difficult for his mother to pick out which he excelled in.

"He just had a natural ability," Kimberly Lewis said. "Alex is good at everything he does. I knew my son would be a football player one day. I just didn't want to rush it."

Lewis went on to play at Nebraska, the same school as his father, Bill, who played for the Raiders, Cardinals and Patriots in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His pedigree and versatility have been apparent in his first training camp.

The Ravens alternated Lewis at guard and tackle from day to day, and that has proved valuable. In the second week of camp, when first-round pick Ronnie Stanley left practice early with an injury, Baltimore went with Lewis to protect Joe Flacco's blind side. In the third week, when starting left guard John Urschel suffered a contusion, the Ravens replaced him with Lewis.

“I will tell you this: Alex Lewis is going to be a starter in the NFL," offensive-line coach Juan Castillo said. "I think he can start at guard one day, or he can even start at tackle."

Moving around on offense is nothing new for Lewis. He played tight end in his first season in college and left guard in his second. Lewis then started at left tackle in his final two seasons.

"I'm just trying to get on the field and do what they ask," Lewis said. "You got to come in as a rookie, keep your head down and listen to the vets. With [right guard Marshal] Yanda and [center Jeremy] Zuttah, you got combined years of almost 20 years playing experience. When they speak, you listen. You have to be a sponge."

If Lewis isn't able to make it into the starting lineup as a rookie, he could have a better shot next season. Rick Wagner is a free agent at the end of the year, and Lewis might fill his spot at right tackle in 2017.

"The nice thing about Alex is he doesn’t get fazed," coach John Harbaugh said. "It isn’t too big for him. He has played in a lot of big football games."

For Lewis, success has always been about making the right moves.