Stan Hochman: Great message from former Eagles tight end Lewis

Posted: November 18, 2009

THE EAGLES WILL get to the Super Bowl this season! The Eagles will win the Super Bowl!! They will win another one within the next 5 years!!!

Who says so? Chad Lewis says so, and here's a guy who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't curse and doesn't feel an ounce of bitterness that the last time the Eagles got to the Super Bowl he caught the touchdown pass in the NFC Championship Game that sent them on their way, but broke his foot on the play, shattering those boyhood backyard dreams.

"Ah," Lewis said, "the backyard, a sacred place."

Lewis, an undrafted tight end out of BYU who made the Pro Bowl three times, has written an inspirational book called, "Surround Yourself with Greatness."

It's 391 pages and you won't find a nasty word in it. Not in English, not in Mandarin Chinese, which Lewis speaks fluently, having served a 2-year mission in Taiwan. And no, you can't get him to say a critical word about T.O. even if you put bamboo sticks under his fingernails and set them afire.

"I did not want to take away the focus from my message, surround yourself with greatness," Lewis explained. "Those Canseco memoirs are passé; there's too many of them out there, I don't think they're cool."

Lewis' book is cucumber-cool because he dares to be different, because he thinks the great people in the NFL far outnumber the thugs, because he praises Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb when the caustic coach and the quixotic quarterback were under fire for a clumsy loss to Dallas. And before the Eagles got hammered in San Diego.

"Anyone who plays pro sports in the United States is under fire," Lewis said. "Why? Because people pay exorbitant amounts of money for their tickets. They expect players to deliver with heart and soul.

"I think Andy Reid is the best coach in the NFL. He put a system into place that put his team in the final four five times in the last 10 years. They will win the Super Bowl this year because of that system, because of the quality of the players, because the coaches will get it rolling in the second half of the season."

And McNabb? "I rate him at the top of the game," Lewis said. "Too many people pick at aspects of his game, his personality, instead of focusing on what he does best."

In the book, Lewis lauds McNabb for his mimickry skills, for his comic wit. "I talked about that on WIP radio," Lewis said with a sigh, "and the first caller said, 'I'd like to see him imitate a Super Bowl quarterback.'

"She was entitled to that opinion. Donovan can crack a job, and he can crack the whip. My message is to focus on strong and positive things. You get more out of life if you focus on the greatness of the people around you."

I hear the cynics sneering about how easy it is for Lewis to say that, growing up in a two-parent family, son of a doctor, living in a small Utah town short on traffic lights and temptations. I share with him Wilt Chamberlain's message to kids growing up in West Philly. Choose your friends wisely.

"Wilt was right," Lewis said. "I heard a wise elder questioned recently, asked if he'd rather have his children give great testimony or be surrounded with great friends. The elder answered, 'Surrounded by great friends because if they're involved in great things the great testimony will follow.'

"Sometimes we have no choice. We are placed in difficult situations. My message is, find greatness in the people around you. Focus on their best gifts.

"There's a book out now about a woman in Holland who saved Jews from the Holocaust. But some are sent to the concentration camps. She tells the story of one young girl who says, 'We are so blessed.' And the woman replies, 'What are you talking about? We are going to die.'

"And the girl says, 'We have a Bible with us and we can share the love that God has for us. We have each other.' "

Lewis did not feel alone in the end zone, when his cleats caught in the turf as he cradled that touchdown pass. He does not look back in anger.

"First of all," he said, "I had the example of my dad, who went through that stroke without ever saying, 'Why me?' In that crucible of fire he focused on standing up, on walking. And never complaining.

"The feeling I had when I caught that ball and was falling to the ground, I knew my foot had snapped, that we were going to the Super Bowl but I would not get to play . . .

"There was a feeling of peace that came over me. My dad had offered a blessing before the game, a blessing of hope. And, at that moment, I knew my family loved me. There I was, in the middle of a football game, and that's what I felt in my heart, that my family loved me."

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