"My man's not doing any interviews," Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley said as media members approached his locker room neighbor Dez Lewis. Lewis, the Bills sevent-round pick in the 2015 draft who spent the entire season on the team's practice squad, was added to the 53-man roster on Monday.
"It's a great accomplishment," he said Tuesday on the John Murphy Show on Bills Radio. "I'm thankful for the coaching staff and my teammates who made this all possible."
Lewis was quick to give credit to his teammates and his coaches, all of whom he said are responsible for the opportunity he has to be on the active roster for the team's final two games. He gave the most credit to his fellow wide receivers: Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan, and Easley, all of whom have been mentors for him in their own way.
Despite only being in his second year himself, Watkins has been happy to embrace the role of teacher to Lewis.
"I'm on him so bad," said Watkins. "[Wide receiver] coach [Sanjay Lal] and I are always bothering about making the hard catches and just staying on top of him. I make sure he's getting the same kind of work that we're getting, and he's going to get coached just as hard as I am, or Hogan is, or anybody else at wide out."
Lewis has been the happy recipient of their support.
"They helped me to get better," he said, "and they always kept me motivated and focused, to not get down about not being active."
For his part, Lewis has been an easy pupil. For one thing he has the skills. Easley and Watkins were both quick to praise his tangible abilities.
"His size speaks for itself," said Easley. "That's what everybody is looking for. Big guys with strong hands will go up and get it."
Aside from his physical gifts, Lewis brought a healthy attitude toward constructive criticism to the practice field.
"I just took in all the information I got," said Lewis. "I listen to whatever you tell me, and I try to take it out and do it on the field."
The rookie receiver has kept that open mind since he arrived in Buffalo, and it has paid off for him in advance of the Bills Week 16 game against the Dallas Cowboys. When he takes the field on Sunday, Lewis will have reached his dream of playing football in the NFL, a dream that didn't seem possible to him in college, at least not until he was invited to the senior bowl.
"They didn't expect me to be able to compete that well in front of the best defensive backs in the nation," he said. "Once I went out and competed against them, it let me know that I can be in the NFL. I can compete against anybody, not just FCS level."
On Sunday he'll be tested by the Dallas defense and by his quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is counting on him to execute.
"I've been talking to some of the younger guys all year long and just keeping them on board and letting them know that you never know when that opportunity will present itself so be ready for it," said Taylor of Lewis and fellow practice squad call-up WR Walt Powell. "Sure enough the opportunity has come. So I'm looking forward to see those guys going out there and making some plays. I know they're excited about having the chance to showcase what they can do. So I have tremendous trust and belief in them."
Lewis, originally from Mesquite, Texas, attended the University of Central Arkansas. Lewis admitted that school with a purple, gray, and black striped field is a far cry from an NFL pipeline, but maybe its status is the reason Lewis never felt discouraged while he was on the practice squad. He viewed each day as an opportunity.
"That's what everybody told me. Like Hogan, he told me that he was practice squad for a couple of years, and that was his opportunity to go out and shine," he said. "You're going against the starting defense, so you have no choice but to get better."
So while some players might begin to feel dejected after 15 weeks wearing a red pinnie over their jersey to represent an opposing receiver for that week, Lewis kept a positive attitude. He was still in the NFL, after all.
"I feel like being in the NFL is enough of a payoff for anyone," he said. "Of course everyone wants to be active, but it wasn't my time yet, so I used all the practice squad plays and reps to get better and perfect my craft and continue to learn the game of football."
Now, after all the work he's put in, he hopes to take all of those reps out on the field with him against the Cowboys.
Wherever they need me, I'll be there," Lewis said. "Whatever it is, if it's special teams or offensively, I'll be there to make plays. That's what they pulled me up for."