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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flashback: Leaping Lewis (1993)

Former Brigham Young Cougars tight end Chad Lewis recently joined the BYU Athletics Department staff as the Associate Athletic Director of Development. For almost 20 years, he has been a true blue cougar. He made many great contributions as a player, but one dimension of his game forever secured Lewis a place in Cougar lore.

In 2008, when Georgia Bulldog running back Knowshon Moreno jumped over a Central Michigan defender the college football world went wild, except for the fans in the Rocky Mountains. Not to take anything away from Moreno’s superb play, but, by 2008, offensive players hurdling defenders had become old news in the Rockies. An unknown, walk-on tight end started the trend 15 years earlier.

On November 27, 1993, BYU squared off against the UTEP Miners. It started as a routine pass play. BYU quarterback John Walsh dropped back, scanned the field, and found an open target 10 yards down field. Walsh delivered a perfect strike, which the intended receiver caught. After tucking the ball away, the receiver turned up field. When he encountered a defender, he didn’t run around him. He didn’t run through him. The BYU receiver surprised everyone by jumping over him. That receiver was freshman Chad Lewis.

As a young teenager, I was fortunate enough to be at this game and witness Lewis’ leap. It was incredible to watch. That play left an indelible impression on me. I knew that this guy was a player that I should keep my eyes on.

Anyone who has been around Chad Lewis for more than five minutes can tell you his optimistic attitude is contagious. His knack for clearing defenders turned out to be contagious as well. By the time he was a senior in 1996, fellow tight end Itula Mili and running back Mark Atuaia were using this technique to pick up extra yardage.

No one, however, could do it quite like Chad. In his 2009 autobiography Surround Yourself With Greatness (published by Shadow Mountain), Lewis notes that during the rest of his college and NFL careers he made more than 12 other attempts to leap over defenders. But none of these was greater than that first, spontaneous flight in 1993.

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