U-M's Lewan returning for senior season
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan All-American offensive tackle Taylor Lewan has always been unpredictable.
Wednesday, he might have pulled off his most surprising move of all time.
Despite being told by the NFL advisory board that he would probably be a high first-round pick in April, Lewan announced that he was going to return to Michigan for his senior season.
"It was great to hear that from the NFL, but I feel like I have a responsibility to come back to the University of Michigan and try to lead this team to a Big Ten championship," he said. "That's always the goal here, and we haven't done it yet."
Lewan said that as late as last week's Outback Bowl against South Carolina, he was getting himself ready for a possible shot at Sunday football.
"I decided that, when we went to the bowl game, I was going to prepare like it was an NFL game," he said. "I did that, and I was happy with the way I played. I think I could go to the NFL, and I'll get a chance to do that, but I'll never have another chance to play here."
After winning the Big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year award, Lewan had been considered a virtual lock to enter the draft, and has enjoyed surprising people with his decision.
"I'm sure everyone in this room thought I was leaving, and I think my dad even thought I was going to do it," he said. "I was asked why I would come back, and my answer was 'Have you ever played for Michigan?'"
It wasn't just family members and the media that was stunned by the decision. Lewan said his teammates broke in to cheers and applause when he told them he was coming back.
"That was really nice," Lewan said. "I expected a quiet reaction with a few nods, so it meant a lot to me when everyone did that."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he wasn't surprised.
"I know how much this team and this program means to him, and I know how much he loves his teammates," he said. "And when he got that reaction from his teammates, you could see how much respect and admiration he has in our locker room. Unless you've been a part of this program, you can't understand what it is like to be a part of University of Michigan football"
Lewan said that he had a long talk with former Michigan tackle Jake Long, who also returned for his senior season when he could have left as a junior.
"I think we talked for 30 or 45 minutes, and he said he had the same mindset that I did when he came back," Lewan said. "After that, it was pretty much a no-brainer."
Hoke will still have to rebuild his offensive line for 2013, but the job just got a lot easier.
"We're excited as a program and as a team to have Taylor back," he said. "Not just his play on the field, but his leadership. He's done all the right things, and he's matured."
Shortly afterward, Hoke and Lewan left the interview room, already talking about a season that no one thought they would be spending together.