Maryland wide receiver Rayshad Lewis, son of former Ravens great Ray Lewis, speaks to the media after practice. (Don Markus/The Baltimore Sun)
COLLEGE PARK — Rayshad Lewis has spent most of his life playing in the shadows. It happens when your father is Ray Lewis, considered by many to be among the greatest linebackers ever to play in the NFL.
After transferring last year to Maryland from Utah State, where he played as a freshman in 2015, the younger Lewis is one of many players looking to fill the void left by DJ Moore, the Big Ten’s leading receiver last season who set a single-season school record with 80 catches.
“I feel like following in the footsteps of DJ Moore is hard no matter who you are,” Lewis said. “As an offense, we know losing him was big. I think we all are just coming together to do the best we can, not necessarily to fill his shoes, but to be the best offense in the Big Ten.”
Not that Lewis is a novice when it comes to playing in someone’s shadow.
“It challenges you to be confident in yourself,” Lewis said. “Ever since I’ve been playing football, I’ve been compared to somebody like my dad. That’s hard to put on any kid. It causes you just to really attack it head on because people are going to put that on you whether you want it or not.”
Lewis acknowledged that his family ties could bring more pressure at Maryland than they did at Utah State, but he added quickly, “I don’t think it’s any more pressure than I’m used to dealing with.”
Lewis said that sitting out last season under NCAA rules regarding transfers was different than he expected.
“I wouldn’t say I thought it would be tougher than it was, but it was an experience that was very unique,” Lewis said. “For me, it was more of a humbling experience, especially coming from a situation where I was playing to one where you know you can’t play for a whole year.”
Third-year coach DJ Durkin likes what he has seen so far from Lewis.
“He’s got a great competitive spirit about him,” Durkin said Thursday. “He’s feisty, gets after it. He’s really good with the ball in his hands. He’s got a great short-area quickness change of direction. He’s doing really well. He had a great winter, a great spring for us so far. He’s a guy that we can use in some different areas. I think he can help us on both sides of the ball, as well. He’s got that ability about him.”
Given the abundance of receivers, there’s a chance Lewis could also see time as a defensive back.
“I think that’s something we might experiment with later,” Lewis said about playing defense. “He [Durkin] had come to me with the idea and I told him that I was up for it. I love competing, whether it’s on offense or defense. Whatever’s best for the team, I told him I’m willing to do.”
Lewis didn’t play wide receiver until his senior year in high school in Orlando, Fla.
“A lot of the bigger schools would tell me I was too small to play defensive back,” said Lewis, who is listed at 5 feet 10, 165 pounds. “I wasn’t 6-foot, I wasn‘t 200 pounds. I did play punt return and kick return.
“A lot of the bigger schools just saw me with the ball in my hands and asked me if I would play receiver, and I was like, ‘I never really played it.’ A lot of skills you learn at DB translate to receiver. I told them I was willing to try it because my body type fits more for that position.”
As a freshman at Utah State two years ago, Lewis caught 40 passes for 476 yards and two touchdowns.
“When I came in, they had never really seen me play receiver before,” Lewis said. “I was soaking up everything. I was just a sponge. I was just trying to get the little things right. I’ve always just seen myself as a playmaker, whether it’s on the offensive side of the ball or the defensive side of the ball.”
Longer winter doesn't hinder Maryland: Despite some turnover on both his roster and coaching staff, Durkin is happy with the progress his Terps have made in the first two weeks of spring practice.
A big reason is the weather — or lack of weather inside the team’s new indoor practice facility. Of the first six practices, four have been held inside Cole Field House, which reopened after a $196 million renovation last August.
“I think they like it in here,” Durkin said before practice Thursday, which included the team's first scrimmage of the spring. “It’s great. We can kick, we can punt, there’s nothing we can’t do in here.”
Durkin even invited the media in for the first three periods of practice, which consisted mostly of a shell drills. (The scrimmage was held after the media departed.)
“We’ve got plenty of room on the sidelines so we can scrimmage or do any type of drills," Durkin said. “It’s been great for us, especially on some of these really windy days, it’s hard to get stuff done in the throw game and all that.
“To be able to come in here and have this option, I think it’s been tremendous for us in terms of getting stuff done. Obviously, whenever we’re able, we’ll be back outside. But at least for the time being, the weather that we’ve had so far, it’s been great for us.”