Saturday, July 15, 2006
Former George Mason hoops star ends NFL dream
By Len Pasquarelli
Former George Mason University basketball forward Jai Lewis, who had signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants earlier this spring, has decided to end his pursuit of an NFL career.
Agent Jeff Jankovich told The Washington Post that his client had decided not to report to Giants' training camp later this month, and a family member confirmed that decision. Lewis had signed a one-year contract with a minimum base salary of $275,000, and a $5,000 signing bonus, after the draft.
A week before the draft, Lewis auditioned for scouts from a dozen clubs and, while his football skills were raw, he demonstrated enough potential to merit interest from a few teams. Lewis worked out as a tight end, an offensive tackle and a defensive end.
The Giants projected the 6-foot-5, 292-pound Lewis as an offensive tackle, and he practiced at that position and also as a long-snapper during spring workouts. Having not played football since his senior season at Aberdeen (Md.) High School, Lewis was a long shot to earn a spot on the New York roster, but might have had a chance at a practice squad job with a strong performance in camp.
Lewis is the second former basketball standout to forego a chance at a football career. Former Connecticut forward Ed Nelson signed with St. Louis as a free agent after the draft, but was released by the Rams when he struggled with offensive terminology while trying to play tight end, and has not resigned with another NFL team.
It is believed that Lewis, who was instrumental in George Mason's surprise run to a Final Four berth last season, will explore his basketball options.
In four college basketball seasons, Lewis, who earned two football letters in high school, averaged 12.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. A tough rebounder, it was Lewis' physical style and his ability to run the floor which initially drew the interest of NFL scouts.