GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Redshirt-sophomore tight end C’yontai Lewis went from being largely unnoticed within the Florida offense for most of this season to getting a special mention on ESPN this week.
His leaping sideline grab in the first quarter against Georgia on Saturday, as he caught quarterback Luke Del Rio’s pass at his highest point while still managing to get his foot in bounds, was featured on ESPN’s “You Got Mossed” segment with former star receiver Randy Moss.
Between that 17-yard grab and his 19-yard touchdown later in the same drive, it was a breakout performance of sorts for the third-year tight end.
“I just saw that last night and I retweeted it and I was just like, ‘OK, I feel bad for the other guy. That’s some embarrassment,'” Florida left guard Martez Ivey said of the ESPN spotlight. “That’s some good recognition for him. Congratulations.”
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 31, 2016
Lewis came into the game with 7 catches for 70 yards all season while being used mostly as a blocking tight end — albeit a very effective one.
He has routinely graded out well for his work in springing holes for the Gators’ running backs, while taking a backseat in the passing attack to junior tight end DeAndre Goolsby.
With Goolsby trying to play through a fractured finger Saturday against Georgia, Lewis got to show some of those pass-catching skills his teammates say they’ve seen in practice all fall.
“I mean, Ce, he’s always had it. He was just waiting on his turn, you know,” receiver Brandon Powell said. “And he got his turn this game and he made a big play. I mean, it’s always going to be there. He has more plays in him so we’ll see how the season (goes) on. …
“But ever since the summer he’s been making plays. I mean, it’s nothing new to us.”
Those ended up being his only two grabs against the Bulldogs, and he actually had more yards against Vanderbilt when he caught two passes for 39 yards, and yet it was still an eye-opening performance Saturday.
The first catch was a thing of beauty and required a replay review to determine that he did actually manage to haul in that pass.
And just three plays later he caught a short crossing pass from Del Rio, shook off the trailing defender and finished for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Gators their first lead of the game.
— UFSwampaholics (@UFSwampaholics) October 29, 2016
He later tweeted, “Lord I thank you. I prayed and prayed for my moment. Amen.”
LORD I THANK YOU. I PRAYED AND PRAYED FOR MY MOMENT. AMEN ?? https://t.co/gcw4X9b7VO
— C'yontai Lewis (@idunklewis) October 29, 2016
It was his first touchdown catch of the season, but not the first of his career.
Lewis had 2 touchdown grabs in the 2015 season opener against New Mexico State, but finished with just 4 catches for 75 yards all season while missing time with a broken hand.
He was suspended for the season opener this fall after he and cornerback Jalen Tabor got into an altercation during the preseason, but Del Rio said Lewis is a beloved teammate within the locker room.
“You can’t ask for a better teammate. I’ll tell you that right now,” Del Rio said. “C’yontai is one of my favorites of all-time. I mean, he is unreal as a person and, you know, second-most important as a player. He works his tail off in practice. He’s always positive. He brings a great kind of sense of humor to the offense. Really proud that he made that catch for me. I was pretty happy about that. And then extending a third down play into a touchdown — really happy.”
Powell spoke to Lewis’ personality as well.
“C. Lew, on the field he’s serious, he never jokes around, but probably go in the locker room right now he’s probably joking with everybody, making little funny videos or whatever,” he said. “But on the field he’s serious, he’s ready to learn, you know, coming out to work. So that’s what type of guy he is.”