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Small in stature, Lewis delivers huge message

April 01, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Jermaine Lewis wore his Super Bowl XXXV ring when he served as the guest speaker Thursday at the 15th Boys & Girls Club of Washington County Steak and Burger Dinner at the Four Points Sheraton.

He doesn't wear it often, but when he does, it serves as a reminder of the message he delivered to those in attendance.

"I've probably only put the ring on three, maybe four times," said the diminutive Lewis, a Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler during his six-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens. "Wearing it is a reminder of the hard work and dedication it takes to be successful."

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Lewis, 30, graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School and went on to a superlative college career at the University of Maryland. He became the Terps' career leader in receptions (193) and receiving yards (2,932) before being selected by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 1996 draft.

Lewis said football has been part of his life since he was six years old and was active in his local Boys Club in Lanham, Md.

"Growing up I just focused and was trying to be good," Lewis said. "I tried to make sure I worked hard."

At 5 feet, 9 inches and 185 pounds, Lewis had speed to burn. He set a national record in the 200-meter dash at the 1991 National Scholastic Indoor Championships.

He also utilized his speed on the gridiron. He led the NFL in 2000 with a 16.1-yard punt return average and three touchdowns. Lewis is only one of three NFL players to return more than two punts for touchdowns in one season.

Lewis was left unprotected in the 2002 expansion draft and was snatched up by the Houston Texans. He signed a three-year pact with Jacksonville in 2003, but suffered a serious knee injury that left him out of action in 2004 and led to his release from the Jaguars.

Lewis will be in East Rutherford, N.J., Tuesday to meet with the New York Jets, but he's not exactly performing cartwheels at the prospect of continuing his NFL career.

"I've had major reconstructive knee surgery and 13 concussions," Lewis said. "(The Jets) know I haven't worked out for three months, but we will talk and see what happens. If I play, it will almost be like playing for the fun of it."

Lewis said he's contemplating starting a business in Prince George's County if and when he retires.

He also has two foundations: The Jermaine Lewis Foundation, through which $40,000 in scholarships have been provided around his hometown; and the Geronimo Lewis Foundation, a supportive group in memory of his stillborn son. He has two sons, Jermaine Jr. (8) and Ali (3).

"Being involved helps give to people," Lewis said of the organizations. "You count your blessings and try to give back to the community."

n The Boys & Girls Club of Washington County recognized a trio of area student-athletes, all involved in the club.

North Hagerstown junior Tyrell Wilson was named the 2005 Youth of the Year and received a $1,200 scholarship. North senior Anna Shetler won the President's Award ($700) and South Hagerstown senior Merce Gonzalez won the Judge's Award ($500).

The winners were selected by a panel that judged written essay and verbal components and a subsequent verbal presentation.

"This is the biggest honor I have won," said Wilson, who hails originally from Connecticut, where he eventually hopes to return to attend college at UConn, Fairfield or Hartford. "This rewards hard work and dedication in school."

Wilson, who spends up to five hours daily at the club outside of basketball season, carries a 3.3 grade-point average and is interested in becoming a sports agent.

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