MSU Legend: D.D. Lewis

Dwight Douglas Lewis was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. After a stellar high school career for Fulton High in Knoxville, college coaches came calling on the talented linebacker. The difficult decision to leave his home state led D.D. on a journey through the best of times, the worst of times and back again.

Mississippi State was one of several schools to offer Lewis a scholarship. D.D. got the chance to know the Bulldogs better as he saw them play a few times in person. With both MSU and the hometown Volunteers showing interest, Lewis felt rather conflicted about his loyalties when the two teams met on the field of play.

"Paul Davis was the head coach there and he had a brother that lived in Knoxville," said Lewis. "His brother recruited me very heavily. Mississippi State went to the Liberty Bowl that year and I also got to see them play the University of Tennessee during my senior year of high school. I sat on the Mississippi State side one half and the Tennessee side one half."

D.D. also took in his first Egg Bowl that season and he had the chance to see one of his hometown heroes in action for the Maroon and White.

"Me and a couple of friends went to see State play Ole Miss back in '53 and they had Jackie Parker," said D.D. "Jackie was from Knoxville ended and up being a Mississippi State Hall of Famer. He kind of gave all of us the message that it was okay to go far away to go to school."

Another factor for Lewis was the chance to be part of winning some ball games and having the chance to play in the post season.

"Mississippi State had gone to the Liberty Bowl and Tennessee had been losing since the late 50s," said Lewis. "They were still running the single wing and they hired Doug Dickey late in the recruiting year after they fired Jim McDonnell. They were kind of in turmoil, so we all signed with Mississippi State."

Unfortunately the Bulldogs were unable to sustain their on the field success, but Lewis and his friends made the most of their opportunity.

"It turned out to be a great decision for us," said Lewis. "Two of us, Jim Courtney and myself, got to play. Ron Hartzol tore his shoulder up, so he didn't get to. We didn't win many games while I was there, but I was on the field a lot. I got a good education there and I got to meet a lot of good people. When you are 420 miles away from your hometown you don't get to go home on weekends much. We spent a lot of time in the homes of other students and we learned a lot by just getting to know some good people from Northeast Mississippi."

D.D. and his Bulldog teammates gave those good people from Northeast Mississippi plenty to cheer about the first few games of his career.

"My sophomore year we beat the University of Houston in the second game ever played in the Astrodome," said D.D. "That was a huge deal and we beat them 36-0. The next week we went down and beat the University of Florida and Steve Spurrier was the quarterback. We won the next two games and then we lost the next six in a row which was very unfortunate."

Sadly for D.D. and the Bulldog faithful the next two seasons added very few wins to the MSU All-time win/loss record.

"The following year we won two games and lost eight," said Lewis. "The next year we beat Texas Tech. We surprised them. They had just beaten Texas. That was the only game we won that year. That was frustrating."

Despite playing on a losing team, D.D. was able to garner several post season awards for his play on the Bulldogs' defense.

"Getting to play a lot of defensive football at Mississippi State and getting to play in the SEC was a great honor," said Lewis. "To make the SEC teams twice is something I am proud of. My senior year I was the defensive player of the year in the SEC and an All-American. I never thought I would achieve something like that."

Lewis is quick to point out that he had some help along the way and that he believes things worked out as they were intended.

"We were on the field a lot and Bob Hartley, the sports information director, promoted me a lot and that never hurts," said Lewis. "Those things all worked out for me. If I had gone to the University of Tennessee I may have never been able to play. I don't know how that would have worked out. I know I got to play at Mississippi State."

After his playing days in Starkville were done, the Dallas Cowboys selected the talented linebacker in the 6th round of the NFL draft.

"I was fortunate there too," said D.D. "I was small and slow for an NFL linebacker. I made the Cowboys on special teams. I got to play with some great players and a wonderful coach. It's a great organization. Of course we had to battle every game. Everbody wanted to beat America's Team. We didn't have an off game and that was a tremendous lesson. You have to work hard to achieve anything you want. If you don't have to work hard at it then it's probably not going to last very long."

During his 13 year NFL career, D.D. became one of the NFL's most recognizable pitch men. His work in a series of "Less Filling - Taste Great" beer commercials brought the rising star into America's living rooms on a regular basis.

"I got to make a Miller Lite Beer commercial," said Lewis. "I thought that was a professional football player's dream. It turns out I ended up drinking too much of that stuff and it went the other way."

"Who would have ever thought someone like me would get to make one of those commercials? It's just strange how things work out. I got to make a Bic Razor commercial with 12 NFL tough guys or something like that. It was all just a great ride. It never hurt to have some popularity, but I was never trying to achieve that. I guess it is just one of those things that goes along with stellar performance."

Once D.D.'s football career was over he had some difficulty adjusting to "normal" life. After turning the tide on his battle with the bottle, Lewis began using his celebrity to spread a message of hope, love and encouragement.

"I got sober in February of 1986," said Lewis. "I got to speaking in A.A. groups and working that program. The company I am working for now used to have sales meetings and my boss would get me up there to talk. Once we started consolidating and getting bigger as a company we were going to hire someone to tout us as a good corporate citizen and our CEO asked, 'Why can't D.D. do that?'

"We created a new program called Community Outreach where I would go up to speak to schools, churches, sports banquets and civic clubs and talk about character building and substance abuse. I have been all over the country and I have probably spoken to over 100,000 kids in all kinds of situations. It has been very rewarding to be able to take a defect like alcoholism and turn it into an asset. You just never know where life is going to take you."

"When I was doing all of those negative things I was headed no where, but down," said Lewis. "Once I got all of that behind me it has been amazing how things have worked out. I will probably be doing this for the rest of my life. They tell me you can't keep it if you don't give it away. My playing days at Mississippi State and for the Dallas Cowboys gets people excited to hear me speak. It's just been a glorious experience for me."

Some of the stories about a GTO driving D.D. Lewis cleaning out the Southernaire on a semi-weekly basis have taken on a Paul Bunyan type of mystique as the years have gone on.

"Some guy came up to me and told me he met me one night and I did this and I did that and I couldn't remember any of it," said D.D. "That's just part of it. Some of those things I am very ashamed of. There are a lot of those stories out there, but whether they are true or not who knows? I wouldn't be around if I was the same old guy."

D.D. makes it a point to make a visit back to campus each year during the season and he fashions himself as a loyal Bulldog fan.

"I follow them and I try to go over there and catch a game or two each year," said Lewis. "I really like Coach Croom. I think this year if he can get over the hump and win more games than he loses he is going to be there for a long time."

"State has a tough recruiting job and they always have, but I believe he is going to have a little more depth this year than he has had before."

"I really like that quarterback (Michael Henig)," said Lewis. "He can run that team and he tells me he has some immediate help at wide receiver. He has all of these guys coming back that have played in the SEC games."

"Mississippi State has done well in all athletics, but football has always been up and down," said D.D. "A lot of that I attribute to Larry Templeton. He runs a good program and I think this year is going to be a burst out year for Mississippi State. I really think we are going to surprise some people. Just imagine how big that would be if they could beat LSU in that first game."

Lewis was impressed with the Bulldogs' organization last year and he had some high hopes for the Bulldogs before Michael Henig went down to injury. D.D. echoes an apparent truth about the importance of keeping the junior signal caller healthy.

"I went to the South Carolina game last year and their defense really surprised me," said Lewis. "I think even after losing the quarterback they had South Carolina on the ropes. When they lost him last year it really hurt them."

"I think the schemes they are running on offense and defense are very good," said D.D. "Now they have to produce and individual players have to execute. If they can keep people healthy they are going to beat some people they aren't supposed to."

Lewis reports that wherever he has gone and whatever he has done the Mississippi State Bulldog family has always been very special to him.

"I just love them all," said D.D. "They have been so good to me. I always felt when I was playing for the Cowboys that everybody in Mississippi was pulling for me whether they went to Ole Miss, Southern or State. It didn't matter. I was a Mississippi product and people were all pulling for me. I always felt that way."

"I have a friend that told me that he couldn't believe how popular I still am down there," chuckled Lewis. "My wife told me a while back that she knew why I liked going to Starkville so much. She said it was because all of those people treat me like I am somebody. The people of Mississippi have always treated me like I was somebody."

As a member of the Dallas Cowboys, D.D. Lewis played in five Super Bowls of which he won two. In 2001, Lewis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

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