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Where are they now? Frank Lewis

Thursday, December 19, 2002

By Rich Emert

It's frightening to think what former Steelers wide receiver Frank Lewis might have done in today's wide-open NFL passing game.

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Lewis was the Steelers' first-round draft choice in 1971 and played in the NFL for 13 seasons, seven with the Steelers and six with Buffalo. He started at wide receiver in Super Bowl IX and led the team in receptions that season with 30 for 365 yards.

A Grambling graduate, Lewis has great speed -- he ran the 100-meters in 9.4 seconds -- size at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, good hands and was a tenacious blocker. Plus, he was a threat running the football on misdirection plays. He was Hines Ward before there was a Hines Ward.

Lewis, 55, lives in Houma, La., with his wife and is employed by Work Force Investment.

Q: Do you still wear the two Super Bowl rings you won with the Steelers?

A: Every Sunday to church I'll wear one or the other, depending on what I'm wearing that day.

Q: Where you upset the Steelers traded you to Buffalo after the '77 season?

A: No, that was just part of the game. I had no animosity toward the Steelers or anything. When I came back and played against the Steelers it was just another game. It wasn't like I had anything to prove. I had some pretty good seasons in Buffalo, so it worked out.

Q: Do you ever think about what you might have done in today's pass happy NFL?

A: You can't worry about things like that. It's all about chances and the way the game is now receivers get a lot of chances. Teams throw the ball so much a guy might get 10 or 15 opportunities a game to catch the ball. When I played, you might have it come your way five times a game. Figure one or two of those might be a bad throws, so you've got just three chances. If you catch all three, you're doing well. There were games when it never came my way.

Q: Games when they never threw to you?

A: That's right, but the thing you got to remember about the Steelers then was that we were pretty good at converting on third down. That says something that we were able to make the pass plays even when teams knew we were going to pass.

Q: Did you take pride in your blocking?

A: I did and we were pretty much a running team, so everyone had to block. But it wasn't about catching passes or running the ball so much as it was about doing whatever it would take for the team to be successful.

Q: How different from today's game was it for a receiver in the 1970s and ' 80s?

A: It was more physical then because defensive backs could grab you and hit you and nothing was called. It was tougher to play with a nagging injury when I played because of that. Guys can have some bumps and bruises today and keep playing because they don't have as much contact.

Q: Who was the toughest defensive back you went against?

A: I don't know if I could single one guy out. There were a lot of good ones. The thing was, we used to go against our first-team defensive guys in practice. They were the ones running the other team's plays during the week, so I had Donnie [Shell], Mel [Blount], Glen Edwards and J.T. [Thomas] hitting me all week. Our practices were pretty physical, so when you got to the game it wasn't as physical as it had been in practice. Going against Donnie, Mel and those guys every day made you better ... and tougher.

Q: What's one thing you remember about playing for the Steelers?

A: Our never-say-die attitude and the way everybody got along. We could be down by 10 points with a minute left and the defense would be coming off the field saying, 'We can still get this one, go get a score.' We just believed we were going to win. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that we all seemed to get along.

Q: Was their one play or one game that stands out for you?

A: I made a catch in a game against Baltimore in the playoffs that I still haven't seen. I guess I caught the ball one-handed and it set up a touchdown for us, but I've never seen a replay of it or anything. I guess that one because I haven't seen it.

Q: How hard did Terry Bradshaw throw the ball?

A: He threw it hard and some times his passes were tough to catch. But catching his passes was like anything else. It just took some getting used to. It's like playing in cold weather, you get used to it and then you don't think that much about it.

Q: What did you do after you retired from Buffalo?

A: I coached for a year at Texas Southern and then when I came back home after the season I got my current job. I enjoyed coaching but I couldn't do both, so I decided to stay home and just work, and then I got into coaching the little guys.

Q: You coached youth football?

A: Yes, 12 and 13 year olds. It's fun. Most of them don't even know that I played. That was more than 18 years ago. They have no idea about my past.

Have an idea for a Where are they Now? E-mail it to emert196@attbi.com

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