OXNARD, Calif. – Jourdan Lewis is my kind of cornerback. Not as tall as I’d like at 5-10, mind you. But the guy has some much-required intestinal fortitude, i.e. the guts, to play corner for me.
Think about this for a moment. Maybe even put yourself in his shoes. I have.
Lewis will not turn 22 until the final day in August, so has been just old enough to legally buy a drink if he so desired or play blackjack in a state-side casino. Pretty young.
Yet this kid believed in his heart and in his mind he was not in any way guilty of the misdemeanor domestic violence charge he was accused of by his girlfriend back in college at Michigan. The accusation just might have cost the Cowboys’ third-round draft choice to fall out of the first round. Some think he was that good.
Now he claims he had a chance to plead out, meaning settle without going to trial. He said no, adamant his live-in girlfriend had exaggerated the incident and that he had not stepped over any physically-abusive line.
Instead, he chose to go through a jury trial.
“I could have pleaded but I believe in myself, I believed in the truth,” Lewis says.
And that’s fine. That’s noble. But I’ll always remember this little self-styled sort of parable former Cowboys president Tex Schramm told me one time when we were discussing a case going to trial. He told me people should avoid jury trials at all costs.
“You just don’t want to do that,” Tex would say. “They will tell you that you are being judged by a jury of your peers, but believe me they are not your peers.”
In other words, usually 12 people – in Lewis’ case, ended up being a six-person jury – will hold your fate, your life and your career in their hands. Truth aside, who knows what that group will decide. Lawyers can be pretty darn persuasive.
Yet Lewis went ahead with the trial, the jury selection this past Monday and the actual hearing on Tuesday.
“It definitely hurt, especially on a national scale, a lot of people not knowing who I am, not knowing who I am as a person,” Lewis said of the accusation. “It definitely hurt my feelings a little bit.”
So here Lewis goes, to trial at age 21. Not sure about you guys, but there would have been a lump in my throat the size of a melon. Pick your type. Man, you’re going to be nervous.
And no matter how you have handled playing in front of 100,000 people in a college football game, no matter the pressure on you as a corner playing man coverage with no safety help, it’s a just a game, right. Composure on the field is a tad different than composure in a courtroom, especially if you’ve never been there before.
Not going to be overly dramatic here, saying this arena is life or death, but just think, Lewis loses the case and he is labeled an offender for the rest of his life, even if it’s just a misdemeanor charge. Even if he is only sentenced to probation and/or fined.
And we know the NFL does not take lightly to domestic abuse at any level. Get convicted, and Lewis is probably starting the season out just like David Irving (four-game suspension) and the latest Damontre’ Moore, now serving a two-game suspension stemming from a DWI offense in Seattle last year while playing for the Seahawks.
Good gosh, how nerve-wracking you think you would have been, no matter how convicted you were of your innocence.
“Definitely, definitely,” Lewis said when asked about how nervous he was stepping into that courtroom. “Especially when it’s the he said, she said, and in a lot of those cases the guy, the alleged defender is always the underdog.
“But just believing in myself, believing in the truth and believing in God, that’s definitely some of the things that helped me go through the process.”
The case would come down to if the jury believed the accuser saying Lewis physically abused her during the argument that started with him falling asleep in the apartment with the lights on or if those half-dozen “peers” believed he was struggling to get away, believed that the only thing he threw at the accuser was a pillow and that the only hand he put on her was for the purpose of holding her down so he could leave the apartment as we all should when an argument escalates to that level.
The trial lasted like three, four hours or so. Lewis was prepared to take the stand in self-defense, but after the accuser took the stand, her mother and the attending officers, his lawyer rested his case. Great, now all you have to do is sit there and wait like another two hours on the decision, knowing the team that just drafted you was in the second day of training camp out here at the River Ridge Sports Complex.
But now you know what it means to be sitting on pins and needles.
And when the judge begins reading the verdict from the predominantly female jury, don’t you know your heart would have been pounding hard inside your chest.
For Lewis, not guilty are probably the greatest two words he’s ever heard.
“I was just relieved, just excited to come down here,” he said of being able to report here to training camp by Thursday’s morning padded practice. “I was excited for my family, too. I know that was nerve-wracking, especially for them.”
Thought Lewis expressed an interesting perspective on the entire ordeal, one not laced in bitterness or contempt. Almost as if he was that other Jordan, Spieth mind you, when hitting as far out of bounds on that 13th hole in the British Open this past Sunday as possible, leaving himself in a heap of trouble tied for the lead.
Nothing you can do about what got you in trouble, right. Just concentrate on the next shot, the next play, sort of what Tony Romo would always emphasize while playing quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Don’t let one bad play or bad situation bleed into the next one.
Keep your composure.
“There was nothing you could do about it afterwards, after the allegations come out that they were going to press charges,” Lewis reasoned. “But just be able to forgive, you know, that’s the main thing, just forgiving for myself and letting the anger go, and once you do that just concentrate on the things you can concentrate on.”
For Jourdan Lewis, his next shot was working on how to prove his innocence, and convincingly doing so.
“I’m just happy it’s over with,” he said after his first limited practice at training camp. “Glad it’s behind me.”
So now it’s on to football.
Because Lewis worked out on the players’ mandatory day off Friday after Thursday’s limited practice, he will have his two required workouts before putting the pads on at camp. That means he can fully participate in practice Saturday. He can’t wait. Neither can the Cowboys.
They had done their homework on Lewis’ predicament way before the draft. They were convinced of his innocence back then after thoroughly investigating the situation, something he said meant a lot to him once he was drafted.
Now his job is to play football. Someone asked him about competing for a starting job. Yet once again his perspective is spot on.
“Just want to take it one step at a time, you know, trying to make the team right now,” Lewis said. “Starting job? That’s a lot, that’s a handful, but I’m definitely coming out here to compete to the best of my ability.”
That’s all he can ask of himself, all the Cowboys can ask of him now.
Yet to me, if you have the composure to go through what he just went through, handle that anxiety, well, this playing cornerback, even at the NFL level, should be a piece of cake, right Jourdan?
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he would say, a smile creasing his face. “You got to check Dez and Bease all the time. I don’t know.”
He said, able to laugh once again, able to forgive and forget. Read