In the offseason, stuck in a studio apartment while his house was being built in Georgia, Neville Hewitt was engaged in a self-directed regimen of PDP. ... Preparation During Pandemic.
"I was working out four, five times a day in a gym, then the pandemic hit and I had to stop for two weeks. I was staying in a studio apartment and I started doing workouts waiting for my house to be built."
He had to scramble to cobble together the equipment he needed for his ad hoc workouts, while, as a free agent, hoping to re-up with the Jets for at least another year.
"I want to push myself, I was a free agent and I didn't know where I'd be," Hewitt told The Official Jets Podcast on a remote video hookup from his car. "The idea is to go in and be able to compete. Being prepared to compete is my mindset every season. To compete with whoever is ahead of me and be prepared to win position battles."
So back to the equipment scramble: How, exactly, does an elite professional athlete train in a studio apartment during a pandemic?
"The whole experience was crazy to me," he said. "I wasn't supposed to be at that apartment. When that happened, it made things even worse. Things in life happen for a reason. Life goes on, you have to adjust. I knew the work I was putting in before the pandemic hit, I knew I was in a good place. I had to keep on going doing my cardio and core work.
"In the apartment I ordered all kinds of stuff from Amazon, pull-up bar, and jump ropes. I even have a video of this stuff. It's crazy. You couldn't find dumbbells anywhere. You had to take what you could get. I was running only because my building has a parking deck and I would go to the top and run sprints up there. Jump rope. All kinds of stuff."
After a couple of weeks, gyms in Georgia reopened and Hewitt was back at it. Later in March, he re-signed with the Jets on another one-year deal and this season has solidified his position as a key cog in the middle of the Jets 3-4 defense. In his second season with the Jets, 2019, Hewitt had 75 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 passes defended and 2 interceptions in 12 games (he missed four games because of injury). This season he has played in all 12 games to date and leads the team with 103 combined tackles (67 solo), 2 sacks, 4 TFLs, and a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
At 27, Hewitt is an undrafted free agent who has managed to secure a roster spot for six seasons, first with Miami (three seasons) then with the Jets. Coming into the NFL after playing at Marshall University, Hewitt knew he would have to prove himself each and every day. He now teams with another undrafted free agent, Harvey Langi, as the two inside linebackers.
"Coming into the league undrafted you see another side," he said. "You're always fighting, trying to get as much respect as the guys who were drafted. Playing at the same level or better, they're going to get more shots. That's who the team invested in.
"For us [Hewitt and Langi], both of us had crazy stories. Harvey in a car accident where he almost lost life. I come from a background where my mom was incarcerated [on a drug trafficking charge], I went to junior college [Georgia Military College] then to D1 and had neck surgery. A lot of [NFL] teams passed on me. I went to Miami and got hurt and finally got cleared after the stinger. I remember being in there and remember how I felt. All I want to do is play football. We all want to get paid, but we're all here because we love this game. For me, every time I go out there it's about respect, trying to earn respect from my teammates and the people we're playing against.
"I told our guys to make a name for yourself, make the most of this opportunity because you never know what game, what day is going to be your last play. If you don't give it your all you're going to regret it."
Three-quarters of the way through a challenging season with the Jets, Hewitt said he often falls back on something his mother taught him -- be positive.
"She always said if you're going to do something, do your best at it," Hewitt said. "This season we've been in games I feel we should have won. Sometimes there's a call or two you want back, a play or two you want back. For some reason we've been falling short week after week after week. It's frustrating."
And while last Sunday's loss to the Raiders was difficult to handle, Hewitt said he had no problem with the late call that led to the final Las Vegas TD, a long pass from Derek Carr to rookie Henry Ruggs against an all-out Jets blitz.
"I don't question the decision on the play, we wanted to get after them," he said. "And they end up throwing it for a TD. It's frustrating because we all know it should have gone another way. It makes it hard for me to go in there and tell guys to keep working hard. At the end of day you have to have goals, keep coming, keep getting better each game. It is going to work out for you."