Michigan OT Taylor Lewan attempts to clear his name at combine
INDIANAPOLIS -- Taylor Lewan said at the NFL scouting combine that he was "not here to defend Brendan Gibbons" and denied any involvement in an alleged rape case that resulted in Gibbons' removal from the University of Michigan.
The Michigan Daily reported on Jan. 28 that Gibbons had been "permanently separated" from the university as of mid-December for violating the school's Student Sexual Misconduct Policy in 2009. Gibbons was accused in '09 of raping a fellow student while at a party. The alleged victim also accused Lewan, a longtime teammate of Gibbons with the Wolverines, of then threatening her if she pursued charges -- "I'm going to rape her because, [Gibbons] didn't."
Lewan told the media Thursday that he never made that comment.
"It's a situation between two people," said Lewan, referencing Gibbons and the alleged victim. "I've said a lot of dumb things, but those are not things I've said. I would never disrespect a woman like that. I consider myself a guy who holds doors, not threatens people."
Lewan also reportedly was under investigation recently for a possible assault that followed Michigan's loss to Ohio State at the end of the 2013 season. He denied that he was involved in that situation, as well.
"I wasn't in any fight," Lewan said. "That's not who I am off the field."
Michael Schofield, the Wolverines' starting right tackle for the past two seasons and Lewan's former roommate, mentioned that several of the teams he has met with thus far have inquired about Lewan, both as a person and a player.
They have asked about Lewan "a lot. I understand it," Schofield said. "Just like what kind of guy is he, what kind of leader is he. He's a great guy, nothing wrong with Taylor. I think he's just really try to focus on this and really keep his mind straight."
Schofield also vouched for Gibbons, though he said he has not talked with the ex-Michigan kicker lately. "I don't know enough about [the case] to make a reaction, but I know that he's a great kid. He's matured throughout his Michigan career."
As SI's George Dohrmann discussed last week, the Michigan football program and athletic department has remained mostly quiet with regard to Gibbons' situation. Head coach Brady Hoke said on Dec. 23, days after Gibbons had been kicked out of the university, that Gibbons would miss the team's bowl game due to a "family matter."
Lewan's rumored involvement in the incident, even though it occurred more than four years ago, could stand as a red flag on his resume leading up to the draft. That's especially true because his play often has walked the line between hard-nosed and dirty, with a helmet-twisting incident against Michigan State's Isaiah Lewis this past season a prime example. And whether it's fair to Lewan or not, the situation between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in Miami will have teams approaching any potential behavioral wild cards with extreme caution.
"It's amazing how people aren't really what they are like on a football field," said Lewan, who added that he and Lewis are now "good friends."For all the issues, alleged or otherwise, Lewan remains a first-round prospect in this year's draft. Though they do not appear to be forthcoming, any further negative legal developments obviously would threaten that standing.