Ravens take UM's Lewis in 5th round Dream comes true for Terps receiver

April 22, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

For about two hours yesterday, Jermaine Lewis did not realize his dream had come true.

Lewis had decided he could not sit still long enough to watch the late rounds of the NFL draft on television, so he left his parents' house for a while to see some friends before returning for a family party.

The family had special cause to celebrate, after they learned that Lewis had been drafted in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens.

"I called my mother, and she told me," said Lewis, who last fall concluded his collegiate career as the most productive receiver in Maryland Terrapins history.

"I wanted to go in the first three rounds [on Saturday]. Anybody would," he added. "After a while, I just said I'm going to make the best of it wherever I go. But I didn't really want to watch [the draft] anymore. I was kind of nervous."

If Lewis earns a roster spot with Baltimore, his parents will not have to travel far from their Prince George's County home to watch him play. Lewis will report on Thursday for the team's two-week minicamp. Rookies will participate through next weekend.

In Lewis, 5 feet 7, 172 pounds, the Ravens hope they have landed a fifth receiver, but more importantly a kick and punt returning threat they have not had since Eric Metcalf joined Atlanta as a free agent following the 1994 season.

Lewis' lack of size is offset by speed that was impossible to ignore. In Maryland's run-and-shoot offense, he often pulled away from defenders in the open field. Lewis set an Atlantic Coast Conference career record with 193 receptions and set school records with 21 touchdown receptions and 2,932 receiving yards.

Over his four years at Maryland, Lewis also averaged 24 yards per kickoff return and 12 yards per punt return.

"Hopefully, the very first time the Baltimore Ravens get the opportunity to return a kick, he [Lewis] takes it back for a touchdown," said Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore's director of football operations. "We thought he was the best returner left on the board."

"I feel I can be productive at this level. My speed can make up for my lack of size," said Lewis, who set a national record at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in 1991, when he was clocked in 20.8 seconds in the 200-meter dash.

"My speed can get me out of a lot of bad situations. I think they got a good pick."

After selecting Lewis with the 153rd overall pick, the Ravens rounded out their 1996 draft by taking Florida linebacker Dexter Daniels and Norfolk State wide receiver James Roe in the sixth round. Baltimore then spent its final pick in the seventh round on Trinity International quarterback Jon Stark, who is projected as the Ravens' third-stringer behind Vinny Testaverde and Eric Zeier.

Before taking Daniels, a two-time, All-Southeast Conference performer, the Ravens traded a later, fifth-round pick to Dallas for a fourth-round choice in next year's draft. Baltimore originally lost its fourth-round choice in a trade last month for Seattle guard Jeff Blackshear.

Roe is an intriguing choice. He lacks breakaway speed, but Newsome loves his athleticism and hunger for the ball. In his last two seasons at Norfolk State, Roe caught 141 passes for 2,702 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Like everyone else in the draft, the Ravens passed on Maryland quarterback Scott Milanovich, whose stocked dropped tremendously during a senior year that was marred by a four-game suspension for gambling. After returning, Milanovich did not throw the ball well.

Even his punting suffered last year, when he dropped to a career-low 36.9 average.

Eight quarterbacks were drafted, none in the first round. Newsome said Stark, the 238th player taken, was ranked slightly ahead of Milanovich on Baltimore's board.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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