Albert Lewis, a two-time all-conference cornerback at Grambling who later recorded 42 interceptions over a sterling 225-game pro career, will be inducted into the Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame this month.
The four-time Pro Bowler joins 11 other figures from Grambling State University’s athletic lore — including NBA first-round selection Aaron James, and former baseball coach and athletic administrator Wilbert Ellis — as part of the fourth-annual Legends class. They will be inducted at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 14, 2012, at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center on the Grambling State University campus, with a special reception for the new honorees to take place on Friday, July 13, at the Eddie G. Robinson Museum. For tickets or other information, contact Albert Dennis at email@example.com or 318-261-0898.
The complete list of honorees also includes: Clyde Parquet, baseball; Jake Reed, football; Alphonse Dotson, football; Trumaine Johnson, football; Howard Willis, basketball; Bertram Lovell, track and field; LaChandra Leday Fenceroy, women’s basketball; Preston Powell, football; and Essex Johnson, football.
Lewis, who earned first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference honors in 1981-82, led GSU in interceptions in 1981 – picking off seven passes for 86 yards. That in turn earned Lewis notice from the NFL’s Kansas City franchise, which picked him at No. 61 in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft. Lewis would eventually also record 123 passed defensed, 13 sacks and 13 forced fumbles. After more than a decade with the Chiefs, he finished his career with five more seasons in Oakland.
“Albert was one of the greatest corners who ever played,” said fellow Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame inductee Willie Brown, a former player and current coach at Oakland. “He had the size and the speed and the arm length, and also the quickness to do all the things that you would like to see a corner do.”
A father of three, Lewis had remarkable stamina — playing 15 NFL seasons in the secondary. He started in all but five games in those five final seasons with the Raiders, notching eight of his 13 career sacks there. He also added four interceptions, before finishing with a flourish: Moved to free safety in 1998, his last year in the league, Lewis returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown in an Oakland win over Seattle on Nov. 1.
“This all started at Grambling, with the things that Coach Eddie Robinson instilled in all the players,” said Brown, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “That work ethic carried over to the pros. If you look at the history of guys who came to the pros from Grambling, they had that kind of stamina.”
Lewis says being a late bloomer contributed to his longevity. The Mansfield, Louisiana, native said he didn’t contribute much to the football team at the then-all black DeSoto High School. Lewis didn’t start playing football until the 11th grade, he said.
“As a high school player, I was average,” said Lewis, who was mentored by Louisiana High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Clyde Washington Jr. at DeSoto. “I made a big play here or there, but I didn’t get a lot of interceptions. The one thing I did in high school was show a lot of physical ability. I didn’t understand the game because I started so late.”
Lewis said Washington and and then Robinson set him on course to become one of the NFL’s best shutdown corners. Lewis would have four consecutive seasons with four or more interceptions to begin his career – including eight in 1985. That led the late Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, a renowned architect of the old American Football League, to list Lewis among the 12 best Kansas City players ever.
But both of Lewis’ NFL teams often struggled, so he perhaps didn’t get the accolades a four-time Pro Bowler (1987-90) might have. Until more recently, that is: Lewis was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, on his first ballot of eligibility; the Chiefs Hall of Honor in 2007; and now joins the Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame with his former coach Robinson.
“Recognition like this comes not only just because of his ability,” said Brown, also a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. “He is a true leader out there. Guys respected him a heck of the lot. They listened to a guy like Albert. He is a total person, on and off the football field.”