Thursday, April 26, 2018
Colleges

Assistant coach Derek Lewis teaches Gators about football, life

NEW ORLEANS — Florida tight ends coach Derek Lewis is famous among the players and staff for his fiery pregame speeches and his message to players about the importance of an education.

"From one to 10, he's probably a nine (in intensity)," junior center Jonotthan Harrison said. "But it's all love. That's just his style of coaching. It's not negative or anything like that, but he does have his outbursts and a lot of energy. He's a full-energy coach, and we love him."

And he loves them back, which is why he takes every opportunity to teach his players life lessons.

Lewis is a native of New Orleans who knows what it's like to struggle — and persevere. Being back in his hometown for the Sugar Bowl gave him a unique opportunity to show his Gator players much of what he has told them in the past and further reiterate one of his most important messages.

"Finish your degree. Definitely finish your degree," Lewis said this week as the Gators prepared for Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl against Louisville. "It's tough out there. It's a hard life. If you want it to be a deal where you can be successful, finish your degree. Have a good plan and work your plan."

Lewis knows of what he speaks.

After growing up in a tough area in New Orleans, he found himself back in his old stomping ground after his NFL career with the Rams ended prematurely due to a knee injury in 2000.

He played college football at Texas but did not earn his degree. It was time to face life in the real world.

"My dad came and got me and said, 'A man doesn't work, he doesn't eat,' " Lewis said. "You need to get a job. You didn't get your degree. It's your fault. You had an opportunity and didn't take advantage of it."

Lewis eventually landed a job as a city bus driver. He remembers being held at gunpoint once and another time having two of his passengers overdose on drugs.

"There were some trying times out there," Lewis said.

"The economy was rough, and guys were trying to make it. Just a tough deal."

Two years into the job, Lewis realized he needed to get his college degree.

He returned to Texas, and after earning his degree, Lewis — who remains well-known among longtime Gator and Longhorn fans for his 61-yard reception on fourth and inches that sealed the 1996 Big 12 title game upset of Nebraska for Texas and sent the Gators to the national championship game in the Sugar Bowl — got into coaching.

He was a graduate assistant at Texas in 2005-06 then became the tight ends coach at North Texas. One year later, he went to Minnesota in the same capacity. It was there that Florida coach Will Muschamp came calling after he was hired at Florida in 2010.

Lewis' life is an example that's beneficial for all, especially Florida players, Muschamp said.

"It's a great example of a guy that's been through a tough time, has pushed through it and is committed to being a football coach from a standpoint of working and understanding the importance of affecting young people's lives," Muschamp said.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
NFL draft: Chargers take FSUís Derwin James with No. 17 pick

NFL draft: Chargers take FSUís Derwin James with No. 17 pick

Former Florida State safety Derwin James fell farther than expected Thursday in the first night of the NFL draft before being chosen by the Chargers with the No. 17 overall pick.James became the fifth former Seminoles defensive back ever drafted in t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL draft: Florida Gatorsí Taven Bryan goes to Jaguars at No. 29

NFL draft: Florida Gatorsí Taven Bryan goes to Jaguars at No. 29

Former Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan gave the Gators a first-round pick for the sixth consecutive year, after being drafted by the Jaguars at No. 29 overall.The 6-foot-4, 291-pound Wyoming native was one of the most talented players in the dr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Aside from former Florida State safety Derwin James, the most likely first-round pick from a state college is ex-Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan.He hopes, at least."That would (stink) if I didn't," Bryan said last month at Florida's pro da...
Published: 04/26/18
The case for the Bucs and NFL draft prospect Derwin James

The case for the Bucs and NFL draft prospect Derwin James

The best weapon against the NFL's evolving offenses, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher said, is a defender who can do it all — someone who can cover a tight end, shadow a receiver or blitz the backfield."The way the game is played now on defense," Fishe...
Published: 04/25/18
ESPNís Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

ESPNís Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

When ESPN's Rece Davis heard about the idea for boosting the college football insight into the NFL draft, he didn't need any convincing."My immediate reaction was, this is a no-brainer," Davis said.Davis will spearhead the network's overdue look at t...
Published: 04/25/18
ESPN: Antonio Callaway tested positive for marijuana at NFL combine

ESPN: Antonio Callaway tested positive for marijuana at NFL combine

Former Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway's off-field struggles continue.ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday evening that Callaway tested positive for marijuana at the NFL's scouting combine.Former Florida WR Antonio Callaway -- who some cons...
Published: 04/24/18
Report: Florida Gatorsí Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Report: Florida Gatorsí Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Florida Gators defensive lineman Cece Jefferson will be out four months after having surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week, according to a report Wednesday evening from the Gainesville Sun.Jefferson, a 6-foot-1, 242-pound senior, injured th...
Published: 04/18/18
Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Tuesday evening's news that quarterback Jake Allen plans to transfer from the Florida Gators isn't a surprise.Allen, a former three-star recruit in 2017, was fourth on the depth chart. The St. Thomas Aquinas product didn't seem to fit new coach ...
Published: 04/18/18
Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

When former Wharton High star Auden Tate hears his name called sometime next week, he'll join a surprisingly small group.Recent Florida State receivers drafted into the NFL.Over the past decade, only two Seminoles receivers have been drafted: Rashad ...
Published: 04/18/18
Police suspected FSUís Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Police suspected FSUís Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Tallahassee police suspected Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois possessed marijuana with the intent to sell it when they executed a search warrant on his home last week, according to an affidavit.The case — which culminated Thursda...
Published: 04/17/18