BALTIMORE – Jermaine Lewis is back on the football field again, and loving it.
Lewis played at Eleanor Roosevelt in the early 1990s before going to the University of Maryland and turning in four solid years. The brand-new Baltimore Ravens then picked him in the 1996 draft. He played nine years in the NFL, including six with the Ravens as they won a Super Bowl title in 2000.
But Lewis ran into some trouble off the field after that. He dealt with alcohol problems and side effects from the 18 concussions he suffered during his playing days. Lewis had been out of football for about 10 years, but finally found his way back – as an assistant coach at St. Frances Academy’s football team in Baltimore the past few seasons.
Lewis coaches the wide receivers and returners and loves every minute of working with a team that is ranked No. 1 by The Baltimore Sun.
“It’s right up my alley,” Lewis said. “It’s really fun. I went through some ups and downs, and you can learn (from them).”
Lewis learned a lot during his time in football. He’s turned everything around recently thanks to a program from the NFL Players Association, which helped him straighten out his life. He now gets to watch his three boys play football on a regular basis and can see his oldest, Ali, who plays on St. Frances’ junior varsity squad. In addition, Lewis got a job at Under Armour, where he works as a customer service representative and helps out at various camps in different places.
“I work, I coach, and then I’m home,” Lewis said. “I keep that balance in my life. I put all my eggs in the football basket but now I diversify. That’s my life. I diversify my life.”
Lewis made his name at Maryland as a wide receiver while starting from 1992-1995. There were questions about his size (5-foot-7, 183 pounds), but Lewis did just fine, showing he could play both wide receiver – the Ravens loved to put him in the slot and let him use his speed – and be a very good punt and kick returner.
In fact, returning was probably where he made his name in the NFL. He earned All-Pro status in 1998 and 2001 (after doing so well at returning and as a wide receiver) and enjoys teaching the St. Frances players some tricks of the trade.
“I cover the small, fine points of the game,” Lewis said. “Teaching them to do the little things. If you can learn those little things, it’s great. If you’re running, always look them in the eye and make a head fake. As soon as you establish eye contact, you’ve got them.”
Lewis also had great speed. In fact, he still holds the record for the 200-meter dash at the Maryland public school state meet, which he set when winning the race 25 years ago. His time was 21.04 seconds.
At Maryland, he’s got the school records for receptions (193) and yards in a career (2,932) and remains very proud of those. Lewis said since he was from Prince George’s County, once Maryland got interested in him, that was the choice.
“That was all I needed,” he said.
Lewis certainly is a happy man now. It’s easy to hear in his voice. He’s back with the sport he loves, also working with a company he likes, and is doing good things with a strong high school football program.
The former Terp turns 43 on Oct. 16 and likes how his life is taking shape once again.
“I’m in a great place,” he said. “I’m accomplishing. I look to the positive.”