After reaching heights of NFL glory, D.D. Lewis stumbled, but ‘God spared me’

After reaching heights of NFL glory, D.D. Lewis stumbled, but ‘God spared me’
After reaching heights of NFL glory, D.D. Lewis stumbled, but ‘God spared me’ | After reaching heights of NFL glory, D.D. Lewis stumbled, but ‘God spared me’
Messenger Sports Editor
One of just eight men ever to play in five different Super Bowls, D.D. Lewis knows a little something about winning.
His greatest life lessons, though, have come from losing.
“Because of alcohol and drugs, I lost everything I had, my wife, my family, my money … everything,” the former Dallas Cowboys linebacker and member of the College Football Hall of Fame told the Obion Central High School football team Monday morning.
Lewis, who was in Obion County as part of his public relations job with Potash Corp. that does business with the local Kohler plant, said with the help of a treatment plan including Alcoholics Anonymous, and the support of many friendships formed over the years, both his life and priorities are now in order.
“God spared me. He put me in this situation so that I can help others,” the now 66-year-old Lewis said when showing off his five Super Bowl rings and addressing a contingent of Rebel players coming off a record-setting season.
“I started drinking heavily in the mid-’70s, and when I retired in 1982, a cocaine dealer became my best friend. I wasn’t prepared for my life after football. So many who experienced what I did don’t live. They end up in mental institutions or in prisons. Or in mortuaries.”
Lewis said he reached out for help and stressed the importance of making good decisions and surrounding himself by those who were genuinely interested in his well-being and not just the football star.
“Good choices lead to good consequences. Make good choices,” he stressed. “Have good people around you. Things looked bad for me. I found a foe I couldn’t defeat by myself. We think we can handle all things by ourselves and we can’t.
“I’d been in and out of three treatment centers, and when I finally decided to go and really get help, I thought of two people I wanted to go with me for support. I got on my knees and asked God to have one of them approach me first, because I was embarrassed. Real soon afterward, one of those people did. I had to get past my self-centeredness.”
Born in Knoxville and the youngest of 14 children, Lewis was an All-State linebacker at Fulton High School in 1963. He went on to star at Mississippi State University as a two-way player, leading the Bulldogs in tackles for three straight years while earning All-Southeastern Conference honors twice and being named a first-team All-American following his senior year.
He was drafted in the sixth round by the Cowboys in 1968 and, after a four-year stint as a backup, finally cracked the starting lineup.
His best game as a professional player came in the 1975 NFC Championship Game when he intercepted a pair of passes to help Dallas by the Los Angeles Rams 37-7 and be the first wild-card team to make the Super Bowl.
Lewis’ final professional memory was one of heartbreak and is relived via television on a consistent basis as one of the more memorable plays in NFL history.
It came in the 1982 NFC Championship game when San Francisco 49ers receiver Dwight Clark made a leaping game-winning catch of a Joe Mantana pass in the back of the endzone in the final seconds with Lewis applying pressure to the legendary SF quarterback.
“I was close, but I’d been on the sideline for about 35 minutes because we were in a different defense and I felt like I was stiff,” he recalled. “When I watch the play on television, it looks like I was in slow-motion. I don’t think I’d ever catch him.
“I’ve thought about that play millions of nights and think, ‘I could’ve been the hero.’ I really didn’t do anything wrong; I just didn’t make the play. And I finally forgave myself for not making the play, just like God forgave me for bad choices I’ve made and bad things I’ve done in my life.”
Lewis, who has remarried and is heavily involved in church and Bible study, said he speaks to many companies, groups and organizations about his life turn-around and is both content and happy his present role in society.
“It feels good when you help someone else with your service. You find out what service is all about.” he said. “Some people say that don’t need help. That’s BS. We all need help.
“I was a Christian at the age of nine, but I certainly didn’t know about the grace and mercy of God. I’m gonna mess up, but God still loves me. I have a good life today, and I’ve found out how much God really does love me. He always has.”
Super Bowls or not.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at
Published in The Messenger 11.22.11

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