Last year, Willie Snead surprised almost everyone during the Preseason, coming out of seemingly nowhere to make the Saints roster. His underdog story didn’t stop there, as he blossomed into the Saints number two receiver — nearly reaching 1,000 receiving yards on the year.
This Preseason, another “underdog” at receiver — UDFA Tommylee Lewis of Northern Illinois University — is making a similar impact.
Tommylee Lewis probably wouldn’t stand out to anyone in a crowd.
Listed officially as 5-foot-7, Lewis lacks the height and build of the typical NFL receiver. But that hasn’t stopped him from shining thus far in Training Camp and so far in the Preseason.
In Thursday night’s game against the Patriots, Lewis’ name was called early and often, as he showed up on the stat sheet for receptions, kick and punt returns, and he also converted a two point conversion on a jet sweep.
The conversion didn’t go unnoticed.
ESPN’s Saints writer, Mike Triplett made a bold prediction on Twitter immediately following the play.
The Saints have an old friend to thank for Lewis even showing up on their radar.
The “Big Tuna” himself, Bill Parcells is an old mentor of Sean Payton’s. It was Parcells himself who tipped off the Saints to the potentially dynamic talent at receiver.
Tomylee Lewis is from Palm Beach County in South Florida. Bill Parcells lives near to where Lewis conducts his off-season workouts.
Parcell’s first words to Payton regarding Lewis came with a caveat: “Look, you’re not going to love his height”.
However, Parcells went on to describe the will and tenacity of the tiny but mighty receiver, intangibles that the Saints covet in their players.
Aug 21, 2006; Shreveport, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Paton shakes hands with Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells after a preseason game at Independence Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
There were two major reasons Lewis went undrafted this past season.
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The Northern Illinois product showed great flashes of potential in his career; but however he was often sidelined by injuries.
His injury history, combined with his small stature was enough to make most teams stay away.
When it was all all said and done, the undrafted rookie received offers from two teams: New Orleans and Atlanta.
Lewis’ production is even more satisfying for Saints fans, given the fact he was poached from under their rivals’ noses.
Oct 24, 2015; DeKalb, IL, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (10) runs with the ball after making a catch against the Eastern Michigan Eagles during the second half at Huskie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Saints have always been an organization that seem to find treasure where others found trash. From Drew Brees, to Marques Colston, there list is filled with players coming off of injury or just those who never fit the NFL mold.
Payton’s greatest talent as an offensive mind may not be his ability to light up the scoreboard, but rather, his ability to elevate unheralded unknowns into household names for the Saints.
If Lewis keeps making plays in camp, then the precedent for him to stick around has already been set by players like Willie Snead.
The Saints can always find room on their final 53 man roster for a playmaker. After all, they just don’t come along every day — regardless of their height.
And in the Saints’ case, there’s also room for one more “underdog”……….