C’yontai Lewis was the last Florida Gators off of the field when the Florida Gators lost in the SEC Championship to Alabama in 2015 and 2016. On one hand he was happy for his cousin, Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough. The two embraced and Lewis congratulated him.
Then he watched as crimson confetti continued streaming down from the Georgia Dome ceiling and he took a piece, which now serves as a daily reminder of how close he and his teammates got to winning a SEC Championship and just how much it hurt not to get there. Especially against Alabama, the school located in his hometown of Tuscaloosa.
“I got it in the bathroom on the wall, I look at that everyday. Like that was a special moment for us to be able to make it to the SEC Championship and like it hurt me bad not to win, especially playing against Alabama,” Lewis said. “Like every year I wanna play against Alabama, like every year. So like it just, that’s just like a big moment that I think about every day. Like I just wanna get back to Atlanta and win in Atlanta.”
Lewis came to Florida as a brash, confident multi-sport athlete. He famously threw a Gator Chomp at Cam Newton after scoring a touchdown during a 7-on-7 tournament at IMG in Bradenton, Florida. The long, rangy tight end appeared to be a huge target and Florida fans were waiting for the day where he would add a new wrinkle to the Gators’ offense that they had been sorely lacking. On social media Lewis likes to use the hashtag “Won’t be long” or “WBL” but as a redshirt senior Lewis has just 21 catches in his career, less than half of what he had his senior season at Kingwood Christian in High School. That doesn’t bother him, he’s actually transformed his game from a pass catching threat to one of Florida’s best blocking tight ends. It’s been a maturation process that he bought into and he’s become one of the most liked and respected players in the locker room for it.
“I’m the type of player, I just play and do my part. When my time comes, I just do what I have to do,” he said. “It’s a lot of times I didn’t get the ball, but I just made good blocks to execute on run plays and pass pros. So, it was real good. Never got too frustrated about it.”
Now with his time dwindling Lewis is taking advantage of everything. He’ll have his last spring practice on Friday and his last spring game on Saturday. He’s starting to count the “lasts” he’s having at Florida and they’re piling up quickly. It makes this upcoming season even more special and the addition of Dan Mullen, and his offense that utilizes the tight end more than the past two offenses he’s played in, so exciting.
“I think this year’s gonna be a big year for us. I mean, we’re getting a lot of action. Like, they’re using us a lot,” Lewis said. “We’re a more important piece of this offense. Right now, I think all of us have caught over 55 balls. If you look at all of our career catches, all of us
have caught more balls than we have our whole career. So, that should tell you a lot right there.”
The coaching staff keeps track of everything in practice. Catches, drops, blocks, missed assignments, effort plays, you name it — that’s where Lewis gets his catches stat from.
Lewis is leading the way for the group. He’s made an impression on his position coach as well.
“He is hungry. Different things are starting to slow down a bit to him because he is understanding the bigger picture. He is asking a lot of questions. When he is watching film, he is watching film with details because he knows what he is looking at and he knows what he is looking for as far as the things he needs to improve,” Scott said of Lewis. “We are going to put together a really good plan for him moving forward from spring and into the summer. If he takes care of the things he needs to, we expect to come back out and put himself in the position to have a good fall for us.”
Its’ been four years in the making but Lewis is putting in the effort on and off the field to make this season, his final one, the best yet. It won’t be long until we see if all the work he’s put in will pay off next fall.