NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan came into the league as a gifted athlete with virtually all the qualities an NFL team seeks in a left tackle.

Except for a tendency to do some dumb stuff -- the sort that left fans with their hands on their heads and prompted Mike Mularkey to strip him of a captaincy during his second season playing in the league.

It left a lasting impression that did not help him even as he matured a great deal in his third year. He was flagged for a crucial, costly penalty late in a Week 3 loss to Oakland, when he launched himself into a pile to help receiver Tajae Sharpe and got an unnecessary roughness penalty that stalled what looked like it would be a late, game-tying drive. In Week 10, he was tossed out of the win over Green Bay early on for making contact with an official. FullSizeRender 5

Even with the two gaffes, he emerged as a key, dependable piece of an offensive line that did very well protecting Marcus Mariota and blocking for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.

Mularkey’s faith played a big role, as did the first year with Pro Football Hall of Famer Russ Grimm working as Tennessee’s offensive line coach.

The top settling force, however, was Lewan’s fiancée, Taylin Gallacher. The couple’s daughter, Wynne, turns four weeks old Wednesday.

Gallacher sounds like a psychiatrist. She is not one, though she says a lot of people get the same vibe from her. Still, she clearly saw the issues that were holding Lewan back, both at work and at home, and she called him on them.

“Honestly, how it started is, he wanted to win me over as the girl in his life, and I was not having any of that,” she said after a recent training camp practice, her baby wrapped snuggly to her and sound asleep. “I was like, ‘I will be your friend.’ Because of the song and dance. I didn’t trust it, he was giving me a show and I didn’t care for the show. He puts on the best kind of show. Now I appreciate the show.

“He was so willing and able, he saw the direction his life was going, he just didn’t have the tools. And that’s from where he came from, it’s how we all are, it’s where we came from. As soon as he got the tools, he just took it and ran. He’s still running and he’s still growing. Having a daughter, she’s kind of taken over the next little bit of his growth here. Things plateau. I think it took six months to get those things ingrained in him, who he wanted to be and what he wanted to be and things just took off.

 

“I was so proud of him.”

It wasn’t an easy climb, and it’s the kind of thing plenty of us might hear and see to be true but fail to act on effectively.

One of his worst games came n 2015, when Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus recorded 3.5 sacks. The Texans took down Zach Mettenberger, a good friend of Lewan’s, a total of seven times.

He did well taking ownership of it.

 "I definitely played one of the worst games I ever played in my life," he said after the loss.

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But the week went badly from there.

A day later I posted an unflattering screen shot on Instagram.

Lewan didn’t like it and made a rare player appearance in the pressroom at team headquarters, confronting me. He showed the picture to me on his phone and asking what it was. (I said it was Mercilus beating him, in what he had already called one of the worst games of his life and one his coach, Ken Whisenhunt, had also been critical of Shockingly, this did not placate him.)

A day later, Whisenhunt was fired. And before Mike Mularkey coached his first game as the interim head of the Titans, he stripped Lewan’s captaincy and gave it to veteran running back Dexter McCluster.

Publicly, Lewan said the right things. But for a proud guy coming off a terrible game, it had to have been embarrassing.

He and I got past it that encounter in time, largely because he was getting better and noticing that I was talking note along with everyone else.

When he got the late hit penalty against the Raiders last year, he joked with me that the reaction I asked him to have instead would have necessitated teleporting powers.

This week he joked with a young duo of reporters who do podcasts about the Titans that one of them once said that players are either born Pro Bowlers or not, and that Lewan was not.

He played in last year’s game for the AFC with Joe Thomas and Andrew Whitworth.

With free-agent center Ben Jones taking on the leadership role on the line in 2017, Lewan could do as much or as little as he felt comfortable with in that regard. With Grimm, Lewan and the rest of the line didn’t feel nearly as robotic as Whisenhunt’s dud of a line coach, Bob Bostad, had them feeling.

And at home, Lewan found some magic.

“He was so willing and able to change,” Gallacher said. “Last year the way his career was going wasn’t where he wanted to be.

“When we first met, I never saw Taylor as a football player. I’m from Canada. So it didn’t impress me, he never had that allure to me. It was always a song and dance. I was like, ‘If you want to be seen for this confident person that you are hiding under, then you’ve got to be and it you’ve got to own it. And that’s not just for football, that starts off the field.

“And that starts with you being the human being you want to be perceived as by other people. And once you become that it will follow you onto the field.’”

Lewan is grateful for Gallacher and the way she helped him figure himself out.

“She has done more for me than I could ever ask someone to do,” he said.

Gallacher gives her beau a ton of credit for the work he’s put in.

“Being judged for who you pretend to be and not who you are is a lot easier,” she said. “There is a little more reality to the song and dance now.”

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