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WhoDat 03-04-2003 11:52 AM

Lewis Surprised by Honor

Lewis Surprised by Honor
Saints return man Michael Lewis was pleasantly surprised to find out he won the team's 2003 Unsung Hero Award.

Luke Sacks

Return ace Michael Lewis had no idea his teammates kept such close tabs on his off-the-field activities until he was named the Saints Unsung Hero Award winner for 2003.

The award, presented by Players Inc to one member of each of the 32 NFL teams, is to recognize those NFL players whose remarkable efforts on and off the field go unnoticed.

“I didn’t know that the guys thought about me like that as far as the way I play on the field and what I do in the community,� Lewis offered humbly. “I didn’t know that many people on the team paid attention to what I do off the field.�

A New Orleans native, Lewis beat the odds and made his first NFL roster in 2001 at the age of 29 after working several jobs to support his family. Before catching on with the Saints, he spent time in the Arena Football League, the Indoor Professional Football League, and NFL Europe. But this past season, his second with New Orleans, Lewis earned his first Pro Bowl berth as he lead the NFL in kickoff and punt return yardage. He added three touchdowns on returns.

Lewis’s path to the NFL, and the many bumps it held, gave him a unique perspective on the link between a community and its athletes. “Just coming from the working world and coming into football a little later made me realize that the people on the working side need help as well,� he offered. “I wanted to give back to the community and help out because it shows that even though now I am playing professional football, I do not have a problem giving back at any time.�

As a player, Lewis, who is known to many Saints fans as, “Beer Man� for his pre-football stint driving a beer truck, is now in a position where he can have an impact on his community and he is making the most of that chance by making public appearances at schools, churches, and many other worthy organizations. “I think it’s very important for athletes to give back because if it was not for the community, we would not be able to do what we do,� he stated. “We need to support our community just like the community supports us.�

Like many athletes, Lewis’ favorite community endeavors involve working with children. “Kids are unbelievable and I love to give back to them,� he beamed. “I try to let them know that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what they say is wrong with you or whatever. If you have a goal, you still can achieve it.�

Lewis is living proof of that.

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