October 19, 2007

Young tackle's career received motherly assist

Butch Lewis had no choice: He would go to practice. He had signed up for football only about a week before, so quitting was not an option.

Lewis knew how hard it was for his mother to say no to him. So, he tested her. He refused to sit in the front seat for the 15-minute ride to the field, and he screamed, kicked and sobbed from the back, "I DON'T WANT TO GO!!!"

Wanda Harris kept her composure and dropped her oversized 11-year-old son at practice. She could not stay and watch, because she needed a more-private place to cry. She reassured herself, "Wanda, he has to learn that he needs to tough things out. You're teaching him something for life, not just for football."

Her other motivation: "I knew my son was going to be a big boy one day, and if there was anything I didn't want, I didn't want a big, fat kid sitting up in his room, wanting to eat and saying, 'I want to play Nintendo!'"

* * *

Lucky for Lewis - and his mother - the team had food that day. He stepped out of Wanda's backseat, ran some sprints, and then everyone adjourned for a barbecue. The boy with an endless appetite for Wendy's bacon cheeseburgers and Dairy Queen Oreo Blizzards had no more complaints about football.

His middle school coach, Rodney Holland, a former Division-I college player, would grab facemasks to motivate his players. At times, his tirades grew so intense that the yelling and screaming formed rain clouds of saliva that poured on his players. Both Lewis and his mother credit Holland for molding an athletic fifth grader into a football player.

"He really made me tough," said Lewis, who seems anything but, away from the field.

When asked about his experiences and achievements, the 19 year old's baby face expands into fits of joyful laughter, which seem to imply, "It's so funny that you'd want to talk to me!"

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