Q&A with NAU Hall of Famer and Wide Receiver Coach Jeff Lewis
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Jeff Lewis begins his first season on the staff at Northern Arizona University, returning to his alma mater as the wide receivers coach. Lewis previously coached three seasons at the University of Louisville. He was the offensive administration assistant in 2007 and 2008 before being promoted to wide receivers coach in 2009. He served as assistant football coach at Prescott High School last season, coaching the quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Lewis is a member of the NAU Hall of Fame after a standout career for the Lumberjacks from 1992-95. He played in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints from 1997-2002 after being a fourth round selection of the Broncos in the 1996 Draft. He was part of two Super Bowl teams during his career, including the Broncos' Super Bowl XXXII championship team. Lewis finished his impressive career at Northern Arizona ranked second on the school's all-time lists for passing yards (9,639), touchdowns (67), completions (785) and attempts (1,315). His 59.6 pass completion percentage ranks second in Lumberjack annals, and was the end result of a four-year progression in completion percentage: 52.8%, 56.4%, 60.4% and 66.8 %. He holds the NCAA Division I-AA career record for interception avoidance with a figure of 1.82. Lewis earned third-team All-America and second-team All-Big Sky honors as a junior in 1994.
He sat down with NAU Assistant AD for Media Relations Steve Shaff…
How excited are you to be back at our alma mater on the coaching staff?
"It is overwhelming. This opportunity presented itself and Coach Souers asked if I wanted to part of NAU football again. It is special to be back on campus and have the opportunity to give back to this school and to the players on the team. It is an outstanding coaching staff from top to bottom."
What is your favorite memory from your time at NAU as a player?
"Probably beating Boise at Boise twice and see them go on and have so much success. We had two wins up there on the blue turf and that was pretty fun."
What did it mean to you to be elected to the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame?
"It was truly an honor. I just remember in my speech I probably cried for like five minutes. It meant the world to m e."
You started your coaching career Louisville. What did you learn during your time there that helped you become a better coach?
"I really learned how to coach with the time you spend in the office preparing for practice and meeting with your players. It really prepared me to be a better ball coach behind the scenes."
What did you take from time at Prescott High School last season?
"Football is football anywhere you go. At Prescott we had some great kids and tough kids. They came out and played hard. Football is the same no matter where you go."
What was it like to step back on the practice fields last week with the start of spring practice?
"To think that 20 years ago I was walking out there carrying my helmet. Now I am back coaching ball and having an office in the Skydome is surreal. I am blessed to have this opportunity."
How would you describe your coaching style?
"I would describe it as intense, extremely intense. I am old school and very demanding."
As a former quarterback, how do you bring that experience to the wide receiver position?
"I think I can tell them based on my experience when guys will get the ball based on the coverage. Quarterbacks need windows to throw in so we need to provide windows for them with our routes and learning how to get open and separate."
You have the jerseys from your playing career with the Broncos and Panthers hanging in your office. You want to inspire the current players. How do you do that?
"I want them to see that this was my only recruiting trip from high school and only offer out of high school. Four years later I was the top quarterback in the entire country. I want them to see what is truly possible when you set your mind and heart to it. This is achievable and attainable. I want them to see it up close that someone from our school, our family, that was not heavily recruited. I set my mind to it and had great teammates and coaches and was able to achieve that."
As a former Bronco quarterback who played in Denver, what is your take on the Peyton Manning situation?
"He will be successful anywhere. He is by far the top quarterback in the NFL. He is most respected and prepared quarterback in the NFL. They will great success with John Elway leading that team. He is all about Super bowls. He was about Super Bowls as a player and he will get them back to the big game. As for Tim Tebow, I was a huge fan because he got the 10 guys around him to play at their maximum level. That tells me he is an outstanding leader. "
What are your goals for the spring with your wide receiver group?
"I want to get them playing at a maximum level with a 100 percent effort, playing as football players and not wide receivers. We want to be unselfish teammates and players. Thus far, they have been outstanding."
Tell me about your receiving group and what has impressed you?
"They have a great willingness to compete and be challenged. It is a tough, hard-working group. I live all those guys. I am so excited to be here and help these young gentlemen and hopefully graduate a couple to the NFL."
Tell me about the progress by Ify Umodu and the rest of the wide receiver group?
"My first week here was during spring break and Ify was the only guy here working out by himself. He ran stairs by himself. To me that is what you need to be able to be great player in this league and at the next level. "I think Nick Cole has got off to a great start. He is big, tall kid at 6-3 who can run. Jesse Bueno has got off to a good start, as well as Ca'leve Deboskie and Jeremy Dang have both been very solid for three days. Our whole group has gone out there and done very well for three days."