ORLANDO, Fla. –** The Pro Bowl isn’t necessarily old hat for Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, but it’s not his first rodeo either.
Lewan made the trip last year as well, which isn’t something his six-month-old daughter could say.
So as Lewan left Nashville earlier this week, he wasn’t sure how things would go. It was Wynne’s first flight.
“Oh, she slammed it, dude. She crushed it,” Lewan said. “She was hanging out a little bit, she ate a little bit. She went to sleep. Then she woke up, and it was done – we were here. It was awesome. She is the best kid in the world.”
Lewan, once again, is here because he’s considered one of the best tackles in the world. He’s at the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row.
And a part of him can hardly believe it.
“You kind of look around the room and the lobby and think, ‘How do I belong here? How is this even possible?’” Lewan said. “These are all the best guys in the NFL, and I’m one of them? Really? It is unbelievable, really, and I am super grateful. It is a huge opportunity to meet some guys, exchange some knowledge and make some friends.”
A first-round pick by the Titans in the 2014 NFL Draft, Lewan has started 53 of 58 games over the past four NFL seasons. He started all 16 games for the second year in a row in 2017, blocking for running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry while protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota.
A year ago, Lewan was one of five Titans at the Pro Bowl. This year the Titans have six players here following the team’s second straight 9-7 season. In addition to Lewan, tight end Delanie Walker, defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, safety Kevin Byard, punter Brett Kern and special teams ace Brynden Trawick are also here.
“It shows we are a team on the up and up,” Lewan said. “Guys have been working their asses off, and doing a great job. Byard had a breakout year. Jurrell Casey has been as consistent as consistent can be. Delanie has done a great job. Kern punts the hell out of it and Brynden has been murdering it on special teams. It’s great to have all these guys here.”
During the week, Lewan’s position coach is Mike Munchak, a Hall of Famer and former Titans head coach who serves as offensive line coach with the Steelers.
He’s talked to his peers across the league, and has gotten to know even more of them this year.
Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva said he’s enjoyed being around Lewan.
“I love him as a person, and envy him as a player,” Villanueva said. “He is one of the best tackles in the NFL right now. For me to be able to spent some time with him, and pick his brain, it’s great. He loves the game and works extremely hard at it. It is a pleasure to call him a friend.”
Lewan, of course, will have a new head coach to deal with in 2018 after the Titans hired Mike Vrabel to replace Mike Mularkey.
Lewan met Vrabel earlier in the week.
“He went to Ohio State, I went to Michigan,” Lewan said with a smile. “So there is those growing pains we’ll have to go through, and hopefully I can rub off on him a little bit and teach him the right way to do things.”
Lewan, who caught a pass from Kern during a special teams period on Wednesday, smiled again when asked if there’s a chance he could talk his new coach into letting him catch some passes. Lewan caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mariota in a game back in 2016.
Vrabel caught 12 passes for 12 touchdowns during his playing career, despite playing primarily on defense.
“I have not lobbied,” Lewan said. “I am not a stats guy, but if we were going by stats, I have never had a drop, and every ball that has been thrown to me has been a touchdown. So it is pretty simple to say that I am (Mariota’s) best receiver and however they want to utilize me from this point on is up to them, but until then I will just be at the left tackle positon until they need me.”
This week, it’s all about the Pro Bowl.
And after back-to-back Pro Bowl trips, Lewan said he hopes to keep coming back.
“Being here, it’s special,” he said. “But it is completely different than last year. The first year you are on your toes and stuff like that. But this week is really all about embracing the opportunity you have, and how cool it is to be in a situation to be known as one of the best players in the NFL.”
Titans players take part in Pro Bowl practice on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 in Kissimmee, Fla. (Photos: Nate Bain)