Do you remember when Adam Jones was Pacman Jones and was nearly out of the league? He played for the Titans, then the Cowboys never realizing his potential until he got to the Bengals. With Jones, it was never an issue of talent. He can cover as a corner and return punts with the best of them, it was his character that caused his issues. Yet, Marvin Lewis gave him a chance, and he has thrived. There are other players too. Carlos Dunlap, DUI in college, was a Pro-Bowler last year. Rey Maualuga was another player with an arrest in his past, he's been a starter for the Bengals for 7 years and not a whisper of off-field trouble since falling under the tutelage of Lewis. Vontaze Burfict is another example. The list goes on and on. Marvin Lewis gets more out of players no one wanted, than he's given credit for. Lewis started his coaching career in the college ranks, as many coaches do. Coaching in college for 8 years, 1981-1989. I'm sure a big part of why he coaches is his love for the game, Football is great, but he has to love helping young men or he wouldn't take chances on turning players careers around.
For many coaches, at all levels, what you're looked at for is wins and losses. I get that, I coach Wrestling and know that I should be able to develop good wrestlers. As a coach, that's our job, put an athlete in their best position to succeed in their arena. Is that all a coach does? Not even close. At any level a coach is a Big-Brother/Sister, an extra mom/dad, a friend, someone the athlete can trust. Lewis does this as well as anyone, and I think it's great. He's someone I look up too. I coach because I love the sport of wrestling, but I want to be a positive influence the way Marvin Lewis has.
As NFL fans, we are quick to judge an Adam Jones for this off-field mistakes, or any of the other players who get in trouble in the NFL, but I struggle to understand why. Sure, in some cases if a player has a troubled past, that is revealed. That won't always be the case. I know someone who was beat by his alcoholic mother growing up, during the times she was actually in his life. This same person's father spent much of his life in prison, and moved from home to home and school to school. So many schools that when I talked to them, they couldn't remember just how many they went too. Now if this person were arrested, while in the public eye, the spin would be put on how they had a troubled life, and needed help. The only reason that becomes the case, is we know the story. Not everyone will reveal their story, my friend who keeps his mostly private does so because he doesn't want the people in their life judged. Maybe Jones, or Burfict, or any of the other player Lewis has helped are the same way.
We've seen the movie where a teacher makes a difference, and they're given worlds of credit. Or a coach makes a difference, and they're given worlds of credit. What if a player that reaches the NFL never had that person? It is possible, and maybe Lewis is that person for many players. It is for that reason, I believe that Lewis is the NFL's most under rated coach. It's not because he took the Bengals who didn't make the playoffs in the 90's at all to the playoffs 7 times in his tenure. It's not because he has went through two different rebuilds with the Bengals. It is because he takes players on the brink of spiraling out of control, and find a way to make them productive NFL players, and changes their lives, and he does it without needing a movie to be made about him.
I know there are thousands of high school and youth coaches out there that do the same. I tip my cap to you men and women. In a perfect world there would be more stories in the mold of Adam Jones, and less like Aaaron Hernandez. Hopefully with the example Coach Lewis is setting for coaches everywhere we will one day reach that perfect world. Thank you coaches for making a difference. Thanks for reading.