Hewitt Made The Most Of His Opportunity

Posted Feb 1, 2016

When training camp began in the final days of July last summer, Hewitt was one of four Dolphins rookie free agents trying to earn a roster spot at linebacker.

Given an opportunity to start for the second time in the last game of his rookie season, Neville Hewitt came up with perhaps his best performance of 2015 in the victory against the New England Patriots and came away with a boost of confidence heading into the offseason.

“I played like Neville Hewitt,” the former Marshall University standout said. “At first, I was playing too, like, tight and people kept telling me, when you watch my film in the past in college and stuff, I played with a lot of enthusiasm. The energy is contagious. So I just tried to play with the same passion and just have fun. I guess it paid off (against New England).”

When training camp began in the final days of July last summer, Hewitt was one of four Dolphins rookie free agents trying to earn a roster spot at linebacker.

He not only played his way onto the 53-man roster, he got better as the year went on, got more and more opportunities, and progressively got better.

“It’s been a crazy year,” he said. “You start off as an undrafted free agent and not knowing really what to expect but just to go out and give it your all and let the chips fall where they may. And to end up playing as much as I did as a rookie, that helped out a lot. It was a great experience. It gives me confidence going into the offseason and really putting in more work and getting better on the things that I’m weak at — put on more weight and get stronger, that way I can get off blocks better and be more physical. Things like that.”

It was Hewitt’s work on special teams that helped him join Zach Vigil as undrafted rookies in the linebacking corps at the start of the season, in essence winning a battle royal that also included Jeff Luc and Mike Hull — although Hull was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster twice, including for the season finale.

Hewitt eventually got some playing time on defense when starting outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins started dealing with an ankle injury that just wouldn’t go away and he ended up being the team leader in tackles among rookies with 32.

As it turned out, Hewitt ended up getting a lot more playing time than he anticipated on a linebacking corps that included veterans Kelvin Sheppard, Koa Misi and Spencer Paysinger.

“One thing Coach Duff (former linebackers coach Mark Duffner) told me is always be ready, prepare like you’re going to start the game because you never know what’s going to happen,” Hewitt said. “That’s just what I did and all the guys, like Shep, Spence, Koa, Jelani, all those guys kind of helped us younger guys and pretty much taught us the defense and tried to help us out as much as they could.”

The highlight of the season for Hewitt came when he recorded his first career interception against Dallas on Nov. 22, picking off Tony Romo late in the first quarter of a scoreless game at Sun Life Stadium.

Hewitt said he also would always remember his first game, which makes sense especially considering he was on the field when Jarvis Landry had his game-winning 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. And then there was, of course, the game against New England to close out his rookie season.

Hewitt had six tackles against the Patriots, matching the season high he had set Nov. 15 at Philadelphia, along with a pass defensed.

The offseason plans for Hewitt included trips to Georgia and Maryland before a return to South Florida to start preparing for what he hopes will be a memorable season NFL season.

The primary objective over the next months?

“Work harder than I did to get here to give myself a chance to stay,” he said. “And try to come back to camp and find a way to prove to the coaches I deserve more playing time and try to help this team win and get to where we need to be.”

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