After spending 16 seasons leading the Cincinnati Bengals, Marvin Lewis will be back in a head coaching role for the National Team at the 2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
As a seasoned expert who began his coaching career in 1981 at Idaho State, Lewis has also led the record-setting defense of the Super Bowl XXXV champion Baltimore Ravens and been named AP Coach of the Year in 2009. With the Collegiate Bowl just around the corner, Lewis took time to talk about what players can do to best prepare for January’s showcase.
What do you hope to bring to the game as a coach?
The fun part of coaching this game is the opportunity to educate these young guys about what they have ahead of them and their NFL career. I want them to learn how to take notes and the things we as coaches feel are important to become a great NFL player.
What advice can you offer guys trying to get to the next level?
This is the next paragraph on their resume. So, they will want to take full advantage of this week to show they can go out and play for any NFL team. The scheme is not complicated. So, they go and play fast, and they want to take full advantage of that.
Doing this game in the way it’s put together with basically former NFL players as well as the coaching staff with me, to help these guys guide them through this process. So many people think it’s about paper. It’s what you have on tape that is important.
As a former NFL head coach, what advice would you give to this next generation of players?
To understand that what you are doing in college is the most important thing you can do. The NFL combine is a medical check. But what you do on tape is your resume. So, take full advantage of your last year on campus and prepare hard for that last season. Every opportunity you have during college you must put your best foot forward. Don’t burn an opportunity. If you get injured, your resume will be shorter. But if you have taken advantage of your opportunity, it will hopefully do enough for you from there.
What I would always tell my guys is to look around the room and see who has been here the longest –that is who you want to be like. Study and train like him because he knows how to do it.
What do you recommend that the athletes know going into the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to prepare them for the week?
I hope they show up in some semblance of football shape. For some of them, it might be a bit of time before they play football, and I hope they take that into account. We want to put these practices together so that the NFL scouts can see them do their competitive things. The point is to get them to the game healthy and ready to go.
What would you say to the guys who don’t end up getting drafted?
We all know guys in the NFL that did not make a squad the first time around and got an opportunity. 20% of NFL rosters that aren’t drafted make it as free agents. It is still out there for you. If they don’t get the right opportunity the first time around, keep training, stay prepared and stay ready. There have been perennial MVPs, Super Bowls and Pro Bowlers that didn’t make it the first time around. You got to keep grinding until you get the right spot and right opportunity.
I think it’s always important to remember that most of the time, the teams that win the Super Bowl, they have the most graduates. When you start something, make sure you finish it. There are many positive steps to working towards a college degree.
What will it be like to coach against your friend, former colleague and competitor Hue Jackson?
I think for both of us this is a great opportunity to partake as much knowledge to these young guys that will be underneath us. It’s an exciting opportunity for me that Hue is trying to do the same thing. And with the coaches we will have, it’s a two-fold thing.
A lot of my staff I picked up, Kevin Mawae, Rod Woodson, Jackie Slater. How can a young man pass on an opportunity like this? It’s a chance to be coached by the greats and for myself to watch my staff grow as coaches. It’s going to be such a fun time.