clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lewis writes and lives by positive vibe

Chad Lewis — the former Orem High, BYU and Philadelphia Eagles tight end — is a positive, upbeat guy. If you don't believe it, read his new book: "Chad Lewis, Surround Yourself with Greatness."

He doesn't have a bad word to say about anyone. He spends nearly 400 pages praising former teammates, siblings, parents, coaches, teachers, commissioners, neighbors, friends and other acquaintances, each one winning superlatives from the author, it seems. He even found something nice to say about coaches who cut him. He even praised Terrell Owens, a former teammate who imploded the Eagles during Lewis' final season in Philadelphia.

Chad Lewis is such a positive thinker that he makes Norman Vincent Peale look like David Letterman.

Lewis can put a good spin on anything. He came this close to playing in five Super Bowls, and never appeared in one of them — and he still finds something nice to say about those experiences.

It is precisely because Lewis is positive by nature — and a genuinely kind person who gets along with everyone — that he had many of the rich, unique experiences that he chronicles in the book. To wit:

President George W. Bush invited Lewis to introduce him at a stop on his campaign trail. Later, he invited Lewis and his wife Michelle to a Valentine's Day dinner party at the White House.

Three months later, Lewis was on the other side of the world eating dinner with the president of China, Hu Jintao, in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.

He introduced the Beijing Olympic mascots to the world at the International Olympic press conference in Red Theater in Beijing.

Paul Tagliabue, the NFL commissioner at the time, recruited Lewis to accompany him to China to serve as an ambassador for the game. He has represented the NFL in China on several occasions, not only because of his winning way with people, but because he learned to speak fluent Chinese while serving a church mission in Taiwan.

(While he was there, he played catch with a football on the Great Wall of China.)

Tagliabue, who spent hours conversing with Lewis one on one, thought enough of Lewis that he invited him to his 40th wedding anniversary dinner party and later invited him to speak at his official retirement party in New York. Because of transportation snafus, Lewis arrived late, just as the evening was wrapping up and the guests were giving a standing ovation for the commissioner. When Tagliabue saw Lewis enter the room, he introduced Lewis to the audience and turned the microphone over to him.

In 2003, Lewis was asked to serve as the Super Bowl color analyst for Chinese radio, with a potential audience of 1.3 billion people. Not a bad debut for a rookie broadcaster. Lewis prepared a chart filled with Chinese football terms, but, as he writes in the book, "When I was excited, I would revert to my missionary vocabulary (and) I would say things such as, 'I testify that Tom Brady can throw a true pass!'"

Lewis' career, both on and off the field, grew from humble beginnings. A gangly (6-foot-6) kid who wore oversized nerd glasses, he had no intention of playing college football. But during Lewis' church mission, a companion repeatedly urged him to try out for the BYU football team. Instead, Lewis joined the school's track team as a high jumper until that same companion cornered him and demanded that he try out for the football team. Lewis not only made the team as a walk-on, he became one of the Cougars' top receivers for the next four years.

Undrafted out of college, Lewis signed with the Eagles and stuck with the team for 2 1/2 seasons before he was released. He was signed by the Rams immediately, but was waived a year later midway through the 1999 season. The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl. Lewis was re-signed by the Eagles and went on to become a three-time Pro Bowl player.

The Eagles lost the conference championship game three years in a row, leaving them one game shy of the Super Bowl each time. In 2004, Lewis caught two touchdown passes in the conference championship game to finally put the Eagles in the Super Bowl. But Lewis broke his foot while catching the second TD pass with three minutes left and had to watch the Super Bowl from the sidelines.

No one could have blamed Lewis if he had been bitter, but of course he wasn't. Instead, at the time he talked about how blessed he was to have a great family and to have the opportunity to play in the NFL. It was typical Lewis.

A year later he retired.

Along the way, Lewis drank it all in and appreciated the big and small moments and especially the people around him. Nothing reveals Lewis as well as his reaction to pregame ceremonies for the 2004 NFC championship game. Timmy Kelly, a young boy with cerebral palsy who is also blind, sang the National Anthem with a simple beauty that drew thunderous applause from the crowd. Lewis was so moved that he began walking from the sideline onto the field toward the boy (now hoisted onto his father's shoulders) and noticed that teammate Jevon Kearse was doing the same thing.

"When we reached Timmy, Jevon and I both tried to tell him how his performance had moved us, but we were too choked with emotion to say anything," writes Lewis. "We both had tears filling our eyes as we reached up and hugged him. We were trying to thank him, but he thanked us."

Returning to the sideline, Lewis found himself moved again as the soldiers who participated in the flag ceremony marched past him.

Lewis writes that he wanted to hug every one of them for their service to America, but thought it inappropriate. The last soldier to walk by him was a Marine with a single tear on his cheek sparkling in the cold sunlight. The Marine was a couple of steps past him when Lewis could no longer resist. He ran after him and tapped him on the shoulder. They stood looking at each other face to face, but again Lewis was too emotional to speak.

"But he knew exactly what I was trying to say and what I was feeling," writes Lewis. "We just looked at each other for a second in mutual appreciation and gratitude. We were free men on free soil."

Moments like these — which are an outgrowth of Lewis' genuine love of and gratitude for people and life around him — have made his young life something worth writing about.

e-mail: drob@desnews.com