Chad Lewis Shares the Life Lessons He Learned Playing Youth Football
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Chad Lewis credits youth football for helping him become a professional football player — and a better man.
"The whole 'all for one, one for all' mentality — that’s football, and that starts in youth football," Lewis said. "If the running back is going to score a touchdown, there has to be good blocking. If we’re going to stop the other team, it's got to be form tackling.
"That concept of working together as a team is where it all starts. To start all of that at a young age is so highly beneficial.’’
Lewis grew up in Orem, Utah, a city less than a hour south of Salt Lake City. He started by playing flag football, then progressed to tackle football while in junior high school. He credits his coaches for challenging him and helping mold him from a young age.
"A good coach, at that age, hopefully cares more about you than he does wins and losses," Lewis said. "I was fortunate. I had coaches who were amazing. They cared about me and my development, and so they challenged me. Like running wind sprints. If I was home, I wouldn’t have been running. Those challenges helped me progress as a man."
Lewis said that the best coaches from his childhood were able to mold kids with different backgrounds, athletic abilities, and personalities into a cohesive team.
"If you’re the coolest kid in the school, and a star player, how do you treat the linemen who are bigger, slower and maybe very conscious of what they look like? If you’re the superstar and you treat those guys as a bully, who’s going to keep you in check?" Lewis said. "Hopefully, the youth football coach is the one who says we don’t treat people like that. And learning those lessons, working together as a team — that's youth football.
Lewis took what he learned from his youth coaches to Orem High School, then to Brigham Young University where he was a walk-on who emerged as an All-WAC contributor at tight end. In 1997, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles and turned in a nine-year NFL career.
In 116 career games, Lewis racked up 229 total receptions, 2,361 receiving yards, and 23 touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and helped the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance by scoring two TDs in the 2004 NFC Championship Game.
Lewis has traveled to Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand on behalf of the NFL to promote the league overseas. And he's also worked with the next generation close to home, spending time talking to youth football teams in and around Philadelphia and in his native Utah.
"I can’t tell you how many times I went and spoke at youth practices and games when I played," he said. "The only time I said no was if I wasn’t going to be in town that day. I’ll do whatever I can to help out a youth football team.
"My main message is to be cool with your parents. Who’s making your dinner, who’s driving you to practice, who’s cleaning your clothes? I start with that. Then I get into how you have to work as hard as you can and work as a team, because football is the ultimate team game."
Photo: AP/Kirby Lee
- NFL Players and Legends
- Youth Football