DETROIT - Former All-American Wolverine and current Dallas Cowboys defensive back Jourdan Lewis was home for the holiday weekend to give back to young athletes in Detroit.
On Sunday, Lewis hosted his first WR vs. DB skills camp at the Detroit Police Academy headquarters. The camp was free for select sixth- to 11th-graders.
To make this event come together, Lewis made contact with the community that helped develop him.
“Everybody that I ever loved, came [in contact] with, everybody that I played with, everybody that coached me," Lewis said. "I just made sure everybody was in touch and understood that this was a goal and they came up with the vision.”
This vision included a free camp T-shirt, Adidas cleats and gloves for each participant.
Family is very important to Lewis, and this was evident at the camp as most of the volunteers were family members and people close to him. His biggest role model and supporter was the backbone of the camp: his mom.
“She is definitely in here getting everybody together, making sure everything is organized. Without her, none of this would be possible. She brought me to practice on hot summer days.”
Lewis also called upon former teammates to help make his vision come into fruition. Among the ‘coaches’ were former teammates Mike Weber (Ohio State) Donovan Peoples-Jones, Lavert Hill (University of Michigan) and more.
His former teammate at Cass Tech and U-M and current Seattle Seahawks safety, Delano Hill, was a special host at the camp.
The two posed with all the players before they went out on the field.
“I knew this was going to happen for a really long time. It is an obligation and responsibility to give back. People helped me so I [have to] help somebody else and bring them up,” said Hill.
It was the impact from his former coaches and the obligation he feels to give back that inspired Lewis to host the camp.
“Everybody that helped me just coming up and having coach Blackwell, coach Crowell, coach Wilcher, coach Tandy-- all those guys mentoring me, and showing me different things and different experiences-- I feel as though I am obligated to this community to come back and give back and share some knowledge."
Lewis did just that with an intimate conversation with just him and the players, where they were open to ask him anything.
One of the main points of advice he would give players is to remain focused.
“Stay focused. I know it is really cliché to say something like that, but that is all it boils down to. You just have to focus and have a will to you know the passion to, so once you have that, it is really nothing else that needs to be done.”
This is just the beginning for Lewis. He hopes to expand the camp to other positions and beyond just football.
"Hopefully we can have, like, coat drives, food drives and we can get it sponsored to where people want to give us money so that we can give back to the community.”
To get this event off the ground, Lewis used his own money and sponsorships, but wants this to spark people to help him.
Sound Mind Sound Body is an organization that was created in 2004 to increase the number of football student-athletes graduating high school and earning college scholarships in the Metro Detroit community.
“Sound Mind Sound Body, we grew up on that. Seventh grade was probably my first one and we saw everybody compete and we came and had speakers talk to us about life skills and other things than just football" said Lewis.
“I felt [it was] necessary to give back to the kids. I feel like that is one of the biggest impacts you can have. Guys that you know are a little bit older than you, that you see on TV and things like that come back and give a message like the coaches do."
Curtis Blackwell is the founder of Sound Mind Sound Body and helped Lewis bring his vision to life.
“It is important for young people to understand that what they see is what they will be. In order for young people to go to the next level they have to have positive images of themselves in front of them all the time. So what Jourdan and Delano and all of the college guys are doing is being an inspiration and showing them a light at the end of the tunnel," said Blackwell.
"Sometimes you get so compacted with all the things that are happening on a day to day basis that you lose sight that you still can make it," Blackwell added. "So when these faces come back and you see that they went to Cass Tech and they live on the Westside, they played PAL ball. It allows them to understand 'I can do it,' even though the circumstances might be a little bit challenging.
In order for other people to actually go to the next level, you have to go back, so it is important that we always continue to remember where we come from.”
Special thanks to Jermaine Tripp who provided the photos. You can check out more of his photos on Flickr.
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