Ryan Lewis says ‘adios’ to football careerWritten by Chris Kozak | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I couldn’t come up with a better story about a football career if I made it up.
Ever since he was a youth, Ryan Lewis has played sports. It’s been his life, his passion and the proof he could overcome any challenge.
Hailing from Holland, Lewis was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as a 7th grader. Affecting nearly 1 million Americans, Crohn’s is a lifelong condition that causes painful inflammation of the bowels.
Despite side effects that kept him from putting on weight or the loss of white blood cells that caused him to be anemic and tire quickly, Lewis pushed on with his athletic career.
”I never tried to use it as a crutch. I took it in stride,” Lewis said. ”I never wanted to bitch and moan about it.”
Maybe his opponents should have bitched and moaned, because at Springfield High School, Lewis excelled in three sports. Raking in varsity letters in football, volleyball and wrestling, he excelled at all. With All-League, All-State and academic accolades pouring in, Lewis felt it wasn’t time to hang it up.
He settled upon Baldwin-Wallace College, a liberal arts-based school located in Berea that plays football at the Division-III level in the Ohio Athletic Conference. There he was looking to continue football, playing defensive end.
His size, 6’2, 220 tough-to-maintain pounds due to the Crohn’s, isn’t exactly intimidating for a D-lineman, but Lewis made up for it with intelligence and technique.
”I really don’t like to get hit by the big guys. I use my speed to my advantage. Rush the outside, get them on their toes. Then bull-rush them.”
Two weeks into his freshman year, at practice, Lewis got hit and blew out his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.
”Unfortunately, I got hit in the wrong spot,” he said.
Good-bye, freshman season. Hello, rehab.
”I’d never had any serious injury like that and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Lewis said. ”So I really tried to dedicate myself to rehab.”
In the movie about his life, this is where the training montage would go, encapsulating the three to four hours a day, five days a week of rehab during what was supposed to be his freshman season in two or three minutes, with music from Survivor playing.
”It was tough. But if you sit there and cry about it, ‘why me, why me,’ you’ll get nowhere. I didn’t feel like I had proved myself yet. I decided if I’m going to do it, I’ve got to do it all the way,” Lewis said.
Fast-forward to the end of his senior season, where Lewis is regarded as the one of, if not the best defensive linemen in the history of his school. He is second in school history with 28 sacks, had 176 career tackles, was a three-time All-OAC selection and won the Paul Hoernemann Best Defensive Lineman Award his senior season.
Icing the cake of his career was the selection to play in the 2005 Aztec Bowl. Nominated by his coach, Lewis helped lead a team of D-III All-Stars to a 53-15 victory over a team of Mexico’s best college football players last weekend in Toluca, Mexico.
It was the perfect scene to roll the closing credits of his career.
”I’ve had a great career,” he said. ”I’m happy going out knowing this is my last game.”