Sherman Lewis: Former Spartan Football and Track Standout
Sept. 4, 2001
Sherm Lewis played football and ran track for Michigan State from 1961-64 and is one of seven former Spartans who will be inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame on September 7, 2001. Joining Lewis in this year's class are Jerry DaPrato (football, 1912-15), Sue Ertl (golf, 1977-80), George M. (Jud) Heathcote (basketball coach 1976-95), Weldon Olson (ice hockey, 1951-55), Steve Smith (basketball, 1987-91) and John D. Wilson (Football, 1950-52).
"This is one of the greatest honors I have ever had," said Lewis. "To be included with this selected class is very impressive and I'm very grateful to everyone that made this possible."
Lewis excelled in each sport and was captain of both the football and track teams. In Lewis' first season on the track team his sophomore year, he was the Big Ten indoor champion in the long jump and the 300-yard dash.
In the fall of 1962, Lewis had a breakthrough season on the gridiron, earning second-team All-Big Ten and honorable mention All-America honors at halfback. He continued his success the following winter as the captain claimed first place in the long jump at the Big Ten indoor championships for the second consecutive year.
Lewis captured first-team All-America status and was also named the Football News Player of the Year as a senior in 1963. He rushed for 577 yards on 90 carries and was the squad's leading receiver with 11 catches for 303 yards. Named the team's MVP in 1963, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, making him just one of two MSU players ever to finish that high in the balloting. Lewis closed out his football career fifth on MSU's career rushing list with 1,566 yards and third in total touchdowns (23) and total points (144).
Lewis' accomplishments on the field earned him invitations to the East-West College Football All-Star game in 1963 and the Hula Bowl in 1964. He was a recipient of the M.M. Knappen Merit Award in 1963 and was presented the prestigious Chester L. Brewer Award in 1964, which is given to a graduating senior at Michigan State for distinguished performances in athletics and scholarship and for possessing a high degree of leadership qualities and skill.
Lewis accredits football head coach Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty (1954-72) for much of his success at Michigan State.
"Duffy was a very serious competitor who taught me how to win," said Lewis. "But he also taught me the other side of life and how we can't take ourselves seriously all the time. He was by far my biggest influence as an athlete at Michigan State."
After a brief stint in the pros with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (1964-65) and the American Football League's New York Jets (1966), Lewis returned to the Michigan State football program, serving as an assistant coach for 14 seasons (1969-82). Originally hired by the late Daugherty, he later coached on the staffs of Denny Stolz, Darryl Rogers and Frank "Muddy" Waters.
In 1983, Lewis made the jump to the National Football League, serving nine years (1983-91) on the San Francisco 49ers staff. The first six years he was the running backs coach, tutoring All-Pro backs Roger Craig and Tom Rathman, while the last three he served as the wide receivers coach, honing the skills of Jerry Rice and John Taylor. Lewis won Super Bowl titles with the 49ers in 1985, 1989 and 1990.
Lewis spent the next eight years (1992-99) as the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, who also won the Super Bowl in 1996. Under Lewis, All-Pro NFL quarterback Brett Favre threw for 30,894 yards and 236 touchdowns becoming the first player to win three straight MVP awards.
This fall, Lewis enters his second season as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.
In his previous 18 years in the NFL, Lewis' teams have compiled a 221-97-1 (.694) combined regular season and playoff record, made 15 playoff appearances, won 11 division titles, been involved in nine NFC championship games, won five NFC championships and won four Super Bowls.
"My experiences at Michigan State helped prepare me for a life in athletics," said Lewis. "I learned how to adapt to a big campus and new environment and how to deal with different people from all races and cultures. I also learned how to take that competitive spirit in athletics and apply it to all facets of my life, which has helped me battle through all the ups and downs that I've had to face over the years."
** Today marks the fourth installment of a seven-part series unveiling the members of the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2001. Former Spartan forward and U.S. Olympian Weldon Olson will be featured on Wednesday (Sept. 5).
** The MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, which is located in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center on the campus of Michigan State University, was dedicated on Oct. 1, 1999. It is open to the general public on home football Saturdays, normally two hours after the game. The $250,000 Hall of Fame displays key moments in Spartan athletic history as well as plaques of the 72 current inductees. The charter class of 30 former Spartan athletes, coaches and administrators was inducted in 1992.