Eagles' Dion Lewis following LeSean McCoy yet again
When Eagles running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy left Pitt after the 2008 season, nobody knew how much time would pass before the program saw an equally dynamic presence in the backfield.
A freshman tailback by the name of Dion Lewis burst on to the scene the very next year, and it wasn't long before Pitt fans began wearing "Shady Who?" T-shirts to home games at Heinz Field.
Last spring, Philadelphia selected Lewis in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, which means that if the rookie tailback thought he was done facing comparisons with McCoy, he'll have to think again.
"I'm learning a lot from him," Lewis said of McCoy, the Eagles' feature back. "It's his third year and this is my first year, so I'm asking as many questions as I can to help me learn things faster."
In his first year as McCoy's replacement at Pitt, Lewis rushed for 17 touchdowns and averaged almost 140 yards a game.
His success led him to be named both the Big East Offensive Player of the Year and the Big East Rookie of the Year — a feat no one else had accomplished since future Eagle Michael Vick did it in 1999 with Virginia Tech.
Lewis first met McCoy as a star in the high school ranks. On an official visit to Pitt, McCoy told Lewis how much he enjoyed being a member of the program.
They've kept in contact to this day, Lewis said, and that relationship has eased his transition from college to professional football.
"Having somebody I know in the same position, I'm able to ask questions without feeling stupid about it," Lewis said.
In two seasons in the NFL, McCoy has proven to be a mentor worth paying attention to. He averaged more than five yards a carry in 2010 and rushed for seven touchdowns.
Unlike many backs, McCoy can also have an impact on a football game as a receiver. In just two seasons, he's tallied 900 receiving yards and caught two touchdown passes.
With Philadelphia's recent signing of free-agent running back Ronnie Brown, it doesn't look as if Lewis will get many carries this season.
However, that's not to say Lewis won't get his opportunities on the field, at least according to McCoy.
"They might have him playing a little special teams," McCoy said. "He's going to get some good snaps, I think, this year.
"I think with Brown and Lewis, we utilize the backs in all different ways. I look forward to playing with him a little bit. He'll have a nice role. He'll help us out."
Lewis comes to the Eagles after two years spent as the focal point in the Pitt offense. In one game against Cincinnati in 2009, Lewis set the school record for rushes in a game with 47 attempts.
"I'm just trying to help and do anything I can," Lewis said. "I just want to be on the field as much as possible.
It's likely that Lewis will see playing time in the preseason game against the Steelers next week at Heinz Field, Lewis' college stadium.
Playing for Pitt, he set the record for yards as a freshman and sophomore with 2,860. Over that same time, McCoy has the record for touchdowns — he tallied 35 of them.
"I'm looking forward to it," Lewis said about the game on Aug. 18. "It'll be a good time. It'll be the first time I'm on the visiting side. ... It'll definitely be good to be back in Pittsburgh."
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