LONG BEACH, Calif. — A black Range Rover pulls up behind Long Beach Poly High School, where more than 500 kids are standing in anticipation. With the music loud and windows open, a local legend has returned.
The sixth annual Marcedes Lewis Youth Football Camp coaches players on the proper fundamentals and technique of football.
The Jaguars veteran tight end steps out of his truck and is swarmed by friends, family and, yes, his teammates.
More than half a dozen Jaguars made the 2,500-mile trip across the country in support of Lewis. Some seeing the Golden State for the first time.
“We’re in Long Beach now, right?” Jaguars second-year safety Jonathan Cyprien asks. “I’ve never been to California. It’s great. I came out here to support Marcedes and learn a little because I want to eventually put one of these together in my hometown.”
While the kids register, the 6-foot-6, 272-pound Lewis is greeted by just about everyone.
“A lot of the people that are here have been watching me play Pop Warner since I was 8,” Lewis said. “I know these people. I know everybody that’s here. It’s just a big old family. We try to make it special for the kids.”
For Lewis, the last week has been anything but an offseason. With voluntary organized team activities scheduled on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, Lewis looked at the logistics of flying to Los Angeles to attend his sister’s high school graduation on Wednesday. He attended and presented his sister Nikia Withers with her diploma and then hopped right back on flight to Jacksonville to be present for the next day’s OTA.
“There was never a question in my mind if I was going to make it back to practice or not,” Lewis said. “I understand what [Jaguars head coach] Gus [Bradley’s] vision is. He kind of leans on some of the older guys like me, Paul Posluszny and Chad Henne to be player coaches. It’s something that came easy. I know guys look up to me so I’m not going to do something that I would frown upon. I try to lead by example.”
The departure of running back Maurice Jones-Drew this offseason has Lewis assuming a large leadership role. The ninth-year veteran holds himself to a high standard and it has already rubbed off on some of the rookies.
“That’s the thing those OTAs are voluntary and to see one of the veterans in there with that type of commitment is impressive,” rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee said. “I remember looking at his Instagram and seeing him in LA and then Jacksonville. I told him, ‘Man, you’re everywhere.’”
With the help of Lewis’ mother Yvonne Withers, who runs his foundation, the event is executed without a hiccup.
The powerhouse football program of Long Beach Poly is now spearheaded by former Super Bowl champion Antonio Pierce, who along with his coaching staff, is in attendance.
“It’s mind blowing the amount of people and support he has in this area,” Jaguars wide receiver Mike Brown said. “That’s something that probably happens over time. He has a great reputation out here.”
A three-day mandatory minicamp awaits the Jaguars this week. Being one of the youngest teams in the NFL, every minute in the facility is critical to their development. For one day, they use their time in support of Lewis and his community.
“This is always something that I wanted to do as a young kid,” Lewis said. “I never got to experience anything like this growing up. Part of being who I am and being in this position is giving back. This is just one of those ways. I don’t do it for the accolades. I do it for the love because this is where I come from.”