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Alabama OLB Terrell Lewis: Skipping Citrus Bowl was a 'family decision'

MOBILE, Ala. — Even after Alabama failed to make the College Football Playoff for the first time in six years, the majority of its draft-eligible players elected to suit up for the Crimson Tide’s matchup against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Terrell Lewis was not among them.

The redshirt junior joined senior cornerback Trevon Diggs as the two Alabama players to skip the game and focus on their future professional careers. Tuesday, Lewis explained his decision during media day at the Senior Day.

“It was just basically a family decision,” Lewis said. “Kind of me getting the insight from my family and what they thought about my decision. Basically just helping me out, clearing out my thought process. Just getting a head start on the draft process, getting my body prepared to go against grown men, getting transitioned to this stage.”

Lewis made it through last season without any significant injuries but suffered severe setbacks in his two previous years at Alabama. He missed 10 games in 2017 after injuring his elbow during the opener against Florida State. He then tore his ACL during preseason camp in 2018 causing him to miss the entire season.

Lewis said his injury history contributed to his decision to skip the bowl game but stated one of the biggest factors was the three-week turnaround from the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25.

“You definitely want to be at your best at an event like this when you are invited to it,” he said. “Meeting with the coaches, body-wise, you want to make sure your body’s good, strong and you’re ready to perform at your highest level.”

While Lewis did not play in the Citrus Bowl, he did travel down to Orlando, Fla., on his own to take in the game and show his support for his teammates. The star linebacker also made sure to address his teammates before announcing his decision in order to explain to them where he was coming from.

“I didn’t want to kind of have that feeling inside of me like I left them high and dry,” Lewis said. “Everybody that I came across talking to, especially the older guys, they understood where I was coming from… It just kind of made me feel OK with what I decided to do.”

Before the Citrus Bowl, Nick Saban revealed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the only Alabama player to receive a top-15 grade from NFL evaluators. The head coach advised his players to play in the bowl game, stating that it was an opportunity to increase their draft value while finishing out the season with their teammates.

“He was supportive. At the same time, he wanted me to play,” Lewis said of Saban. “At the same time, he understood that I had to make a business decision.”

Lewis led Alabama with 16 quarterback hurries last season and finished second on the team with 11.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks over 11 games. During the Senior Bowl weigh-ins on Tuesday, he was listed at 6-foot-5⅜, 258 pounds, an impressive size given his athleticism. While Lewis was at one time viewed as a potential early first-round pick, his draft status is somewhat of an unknown heading into this week.

“You hear all types of things,” he said. “You hear first round, second round. ‘You're going to go in the fourth round because you’ve been hurt.’ Fifth round. For me, you don’t really feed into everything that you hear people say and stuff like that. You’ve got to live it.”

Lewis will hit the field Tuesday for the first of three game-week practices before taking part in the Senior Bowl game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT inside Mobile’s Ladd–Peebles Stadium. He will also have the opportunity to meet with NFL teams throughout the week.

“Just really dominate every rep I can do,” Lewis said when asked what he’s trying to prove to scouts. “Whether it’s pass rush, dropping in coverage, playing man-to-man, playing a different position. Doing things as far as the meeting room, showing them who I am as a person character-wise in meetings as far as talking Xs and Os and stuff like that. Just being an all-around guy where you know you can truly invest in me as an organization.”

When asked if he feels his decision to skip the Citrus Bowl will pay off this week, Lewis smiled.

“Well I guess I’ll just have to go through the week and see,” he said.

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