- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Not too long ago, Michael Lewis drove a beer truck in order to support his family and keep alive his dream of playing pro football.
Yesterday, the New Orleans Saints wide receiver beat the Washington Redskins nearly single-handedly, returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and a punt 83 yards for another score.
This Bud's for you, Michael.
Not only did the 5-foot-8 speedster disgrace the Redskins' coverage teams, he accounted for 356 all-purpose yards, including two receptions for 70 yards. Lewis touched the ball just eight times but inflicted plenty of damage in the Saints' 43-27 victory.
"Just being out there in the working world lets me know how hard I worked out there and to take that and bring it into football," Lewis said. "I finally got an opportunity. Every week is like one block away from returning one."
Lewis' background is a classic rags-to-riches story. Even though he had some offers, Lewis never played college football. At 19, he became a father and decided taking care of his young family was more important than football.
Fresh out of Grace King High School in Metairie, La., Lewis plunged into the working world. Lewis, who will turn 31 in a few weeks, kept himself in shape during those 40-hour weeks by playing sandlot ball.
"I played semi-pro football for a couple of years and I just worked," Lewis said. "I played a lot of flag football and different things just to stay in shape, but I never played any contact sports until 1998 when I played in the Indoor Professional Football League.
"One day I was driving a truck and I heard [about a tryout] on the radio. I worked out for the team and wound up making the team, and it just led on from there."
Lewis got his first break in 1998 with the IPFL's Louisiana Bayou Beast, whose league preceded the Arena2 League. He finished as the IPFL's all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 23. Lewis went from the Bayou Beast to the New Jersey Red Dogs of the Arena Football League for the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Three years ago, Lewis called the Saints for a tryout.
"He's off the street. We brought him in for a workout," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He worked at the Budweiser plant right down the road from us. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't go out and watch the workout. I was watching from my window. He was so fast that I had to go down and watch it. He ran a 4.19 [40-yard dash] and it was raining out on grass. We didn't have a spot for him, he didn't have great hands. But we stuck him on the practice squad at the end of [2000]."
The hometown hero beat the odds and, after proving himself in NFL Europe and training camp last year, made the Saints.
Yesterday, Lewis killed any momentum the Redskins could muster. Stephen Davis scored on a 1-yard run with 10:39 remaining before halftime to keep the Redskins in the game, down 20-7. Lewis answered on the following kickoff.
James Tuthill's kick fell short at the 10. Lewis took it and headed left, where a wall formed. He raced untouched down the left sideline for his first career touchdown.
Lewis' touchdown in the third quarter was pure deception.
The Redskins, now trailing just 26-21, were forced to punt from the Washington 38 on their first possession of the second half. Lewis waved his teammates away from Bryan Barker's punt, which hit near the New Orleans 20. Apparently, the Redskins thought Lewis was going to let them down the ball.
Wrong. Lewis scooped up the ball at the 17, broke right, found a seam, collected a few blocks and was gone. The 83-yard touchdown run helped push the Saints' lead to 36-21.
Lewis became the first Saint to return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same game and the second to score on two returns in the same game. Tyrone Hughes returned two kickoffs for scores against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 23, 1994.
"I'm a little guy, there's not much [space] that I need," Lewis said. "I can squeeze through a little hole. It's just off to the races after that."


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