Chad Lewis spent his first few years out of football traveling the world, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and writing a book.
That wasn’t enough for the three-time Pro Bowl tight end and former Philadelphia Eagle.
“I wasn’t the kind of person to just sit home and do nothing,” Lewis, who served as an NFL ambassador to China, said. “I needed something to do.”
He found the perfect post-NFL career as an assistant athletic director at his old college, Brigham Young University.
“It’s different, and it’s a lot of work, more than I thought, but I love it,” Lewis said.
Lewis always made the most of what he had. He walked on as BYU as a player and eventually was enshrined in the school’s Hall of Fame.
He went undrafted into the NFL and was released twice before becoming a three-time Pro Bowl player. In a career that spanned nine years, he caught 229 passes for 2,361 yards and 23 touchdowns.
In the playoffs, he caught another 38 passes for 409 yards and three touchdowns.
Now in the development office at BYU, his job is to sell the school, in particular the football program, to potential sponsors and donors.
“I like what I do, because I believe in the school and I believe in our football program. So it’s doing something I love and that makes it sweet,” Lewis, who began his role at the school in 2010, said. “It’s not an easy job. But because I believe in it, believe in the product, believe in BYU, it makes it easier.”
Lewis is in attendance at every Cougars football game, home and away, every home basketball game and several other home games for the other 19 sports.
“That’s what makes it so great,” he said. “I’m still at every game, I still feel as if I’m part of the team. I’m working at a great place, a place I’ve always loved. And I’m working with great people. My boss is Tom Holmoe, you remember him from the 49ers. He’s a great man and a great person to work for and work with. I’m blessed.”
Lewis wasn’t sure what he would do when his NFL career ended. While he played he thought perhaps about becoming a coach. But the long hours and being away from home so often didn’t sit right with the loving husband and father of seven children.
“I never saw myself as a fund raiser,” Lewis said. “But I did some work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and raised over a million dollars, so I thought maybe I could do it.
“This job is great, because other than the few times a year I’m away with football, I’m home,” he said. “Michelle (his wife and also a former BYU athlete) will go to a few of the (road) games too. The kids come with me to some of the home events. It works out great.”
Lewis’ oldest child, his daughter Emily, will be attending BYU next year and playing volleyball. In order there is Emily, 17-year-old Sara, 14-year-old Jake, 12-year-old Jeff, eight-year-old Max and six-year old twins, Tanner and Todd.
“I have a great family,” Lewis said. “They have been my strength. When you talk about being out of football and what guys miss, there are the tangible things. The locker room, the games, making plays on the field. We can all describe that.
“What guys can’t describe is what it’s like going from the top of your game, the top of the sport to having to go to work and start the entry level.
“That’s one of the reasons so many guys go bankrupt. They can’t accept that. They’re used to having that celebrity status and it’s hard to give it up. So they act and spend like they still have it, and eventually it’s all gone.”
Lewis says his family and his faith have kept him not just strong, but going strong.
“Because of my family and because of my strong faith, I realized what I had to do,” he said. “I have to go to work. I’m not a rock star. You have to remind yourself of that, and check your ego. Hey, I loved playing football and I loved being a Philadelphia Eagle. But that’s over and now I go to work every day.”