SO, THEY QUICKLY inducted Chad Lewis into BYU's Athletic Hall of Fame.

No surprise there. Lewis is a guy who gives new meaning to taking what's given and making a delivery.

All his life, he's surprised people on the football field and blazed his way through those who misjudged his abilities and his heart. It happened in college and repeated itself in the NFL.

I first met Lewis nearly 25 years ago when my newspaper asked that I join a civic organization, the Orem Jaycees. Part of my committee assignment with that club was to help administrate the junior football league in the city by registering kids, handing out equipment, securing fields of play and coordinating officials.

On sign-up day, a whole line of kids gathered around the city sheds where a couple of us took their money and handed out helmets and pads.

There in line that day were two taller kids with red hair, Mike and Chad Lewis. I remember the pair because they demanded helmets that fit snug and wouldn't settle for anything else.

The Lewis boys immediately stood out. They looked you in the eye. They were confident, polite and natural leaders. Sons of physician Roger Lewis and his wife, Jan, who later gained a seat on the Alpine School District board, you could tell this pair had been taught to believe in themselves.

At Lakeridge Junior High, Chad was a skinny, undersize kid who played receiver and defensive back.

The Lewis brothers later made their way through the ranks at Orem High, and Chad helped the Tigers win the state championship over Skyline in 1987. Mike, nicknamed "Lou," signed to play defensive tackle at Utah. Chad took over the "Lou" nickname at Orem and wanted to follow his brother but leaned toward BYU, which never offered him a scholarship out of high school because, in part, of his size.

But while on an LDS mission, Chad had a growing spurt. When he returned and walked on at BYU without a scholarship, he was the talk of the summer. The Cougars were getting a steal and didn't have to pay for it.

Chad had grown to nearly 6-foot-6. He could jump like a gazelle and his speed was impressive.

As a bunch of players worked out in the summer, word got around that Chad Lewis was tearing it up.

In two-a-days, then-offensive coordinator Norm Chow noted, "This Lewis kid could be something special. We've got to find him a scholarship."

Aside from making big plays, Chad Lewis was a natural leader. Two examples stand out.

When Ron McBride's Utah team had a breakthrough win in Cougar Stadium in 1993, some Utah fans and players headed toward the north goalposts to bring them down in celebration. Emotional and charged up, Lewis raced to the end zone all by himself, trying to get teammates to follow and protect the metal uprights. Somehow, almost single-handedly, he turned aside a tide of red, and the effort simply faded.

In 1996, Lewis, then a senior, was part of a Cougar squad that went to Seattle and lost to Washington. Players on the team had argued before kickoff on attire, to spat or not spat up their shoes for national TV. The argument distracted the team and disgusted Lewis. He vowed, as a team captain, that would never happen again. The Cougars never lost another game that year, defeating Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.

Lewis was entertaining, with a patented penchant for leaping over defenders and making clutch catches in college. But nobody drafted the Cougar.

As goes the story of his athletic life, that didn't stop him from reaching his dream of playing in the big league.

Lewis signed as a free agent with the Eagles in 1997. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and led all NFL tight ends in 2000 with 69 catches, the first Eagle tight end to catch more than 50 passes since 1989.

His touchdown catch in the 2005 playoffs helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl against New England.

The NFL appointed Lewis an official league ambassador and sent him to China, where he toured the country, putting on clinics, speaking fluent Mandarin.

When I think of Chad Lewis, the word "dynamo" comes to mind. The man is motivated and as articulate as a congressman. He has a unique talent to inspire and lift those around him.

I didn't foresee all of this when handing out pads to a kid back in the mid-'80s in a city parking lot, but even then, there was something that stood out about him that was different, and it became etched in my mind.

Now, Chad Lewis is in his alma mater's hall of fame. He's a guy who refuses to be labeled, judged or boxed in by others and is a person who stands up when others hesitate or shun away from challenges.

Congratulations, Mr. Lewis. May this force stay with you.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com