NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan is quickly filling the shoes of Bernard Pollard as the team's most colorful quote during open locker room sessions. The Titans' 2014 first-round draft pick didn't disappoint when breaking down his upcoming matchup against Houston's stud pass rushers J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
Watt is having another monster season with five sacks, an interception, three fumble recoveries, 29 tackles and three touchdowns (one fumble recovery, one interception return and one receiving).
Lewan missed his chance to go against Watt in college during his red shirt season when Michigan played against Watt's Wisconsin Badgers. While taking the game in from the sidelines, Lewan had an inkling this wouldn't be the last time he saw Watt.
"I honestly can't wait for the opportunity. I was bummed I missed the opportunity my red shirt freshman year [at Michigan] when we played Wisconsin," Lewan said. "I remember sitting there thinking that I knew I'd have to play him again – and I'm not sure why I thought this because I never knew I'd make it to the NFL, but I did."
As for Clowney, Lewan saw the 2014 first overall pick up close and personal during his college days.
"There's a reason why Clowney was first overall," he said. "He's a great athlete. I had an opportunity to go against him in college."
That opportunity was the 2013 Outback Bowl between Michigan and South Carolina. You might not remember the game, but you'd remember the hit Clowney put on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the fourth quarter. The crushing hit became Clowney's signature collegiate moment.
Lewan had reporters in stitches as he shared his memories from the play.
"I've talked to him about it several times. I'm not pointing fingers, but it wasn't my assignment," he began laughing. "It was a power. I went down to the backside linebacker and I started hearing some screaming and yelling and I turned around and saw Clowney celebrating with his arms folded. I'm like 'I guess we didn't do very well on that play.' So I didn't really see it until it got played 6,422 more times that day."
At this point, everyone listening to the story couldn't contain their laughter.
"It was a hell of a hit," Lewan continued. "People can say it's easy to make a big hit when you're not blocked, but that was a hell of a hit. Thankfully our running back was the toughest guy I've ever met in my life. He took it on the chin and got right back up."
For all of Lewan's joking, there might not be a more intense player on game day. Lewan himself says he toes the line in terms of his aggression and playing through the whistle. Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he's been pleased with what he's seen from the rookie tackle through his first two NFL starts.
"I think he's worked hard to get better," Whisenhunt said. "I think getting all the reps in training camp, and even playing another position helps give him a better feel for just playing. It makes him more prepared to step in and do that. He's done a good job."
Pro Football Focus ranks Lewan 12th out of 72 tackles this season and the rookie says he's still yet to receive his "welcome to the NFL moment."
"I don't think about it, but I know it's eventually going to come," he said. "It's the NFL, these guys are freak athletes. It's just great to be playing and holding my own against it, and hopefully I continue to get better and do all the things I need to do."
Lewan said although it's cliché, proper technique and fundamentals make up the best formula to succeed against Houston's pass rush. It will take a team effort to contain Watt, Clowney, and company.
"It's not about J.J. Watt and Taylor Lewan or Jadeveon Clowney and Taylor Lewan," he explained. "It's about the Titans and the Texans. If I do my job along with 10 other guys then we'll be successful."