Roy Lewis, is a 5-year NFL veteran. A California native, Lewis attended Narbonne High School. After initially enrolling at San Jose State University, Lewis transferred to the University of Washington and was named a Husky team captain as a senior. Lewis originally signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers before he was acquired by the Seattle Seahawks.
The Lessons of a Professional Athlete
G4: Roy, what are some primary objectives that you’ve learned since becoming a professional athlete? What have you learned that you need to do to take care of yourself and keep your body and mind right?
Roy Lewis: I think the first part is learning to become professional. You need to get accustomed to other athletes, being underneath the system, underneath the umbrella of adversity.
In high school, you have a coach coming down on you but when you get to the professional ranks, taking care of yourself is already expected. That’s a part of being a professional, being able to take care of your body, taking ownership, and having that accountability.
Your coach is not going to tell you to go get in the ice bath, to get in the hot tubs, to invest in your body, to eat the proper nutrition, to get the proper amount of rest. Those are the things you need to learn as you become a professional because this is truly your job; it’s no longer student-athlete, now you are just a professional athlete.
G4: What does it mean to be a professional athlete?
Roy Lewis: Part of being a professional and the meaning of being a professional is being able to perform or complete a task regardless of how you feel, right, wrong, or indifferent.
Mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, you have been given a job and you need to do it. Being a professional means you have to do the things necessary to be able to prepare your body to go do the job.
Nobody wants to sit; it’s not just about the physical things; it’s not just about lifting weights and running and all that stuff. But it’s all the little extra things you have to do that make it.
G4: How do you prevent injuries?
Roy Lewis: Think of your body as a vehicle. You don’t just get in a car and just go day-in and day-out without doing an oil check, a tune-up, getting your tires rotated, making sure the systems are checked. That’s all vital parts of making that car, making that engine, making your body perform at the highest level day in and day out.
If you let one little small thing linger, then it becomes a big thing and you find yourself catching the injury bug. We all know that injury is a part of the game, but to help prevent some of those kind of things, proper maintenance is right. Getting your proper maintenance will help you to somewhat prevent injury.
But again, when you do find yourself in an injury situation, now it’s really time to turn on the professionalism to really dig deep, to really start going to really go back, sit, think, and analyze saying, “OK, maybe I took stretching for granted; maybe I’m taking my nutrition for granted; maybe I took getting in the ice tub, getting my massages weekly, my proper maintenance; maybe I took those things for granted. How do I make myself better in this area because, again, your body is letting you know something when you get injured. This is something you need to work on. If you haven’t, you need to work on it now.
The main thing is really becoming professional, having the professional mindset that nobody is going to tell you how to live your life. You have to take that on yourself. Get your life in order and everything else will start falling right into place.
The Greatest Challenges
G4: What’s been your greatest challenge to being a professional athlete?
Roy Lewis: The freedom that comes along with being a professional athlete, sometimes that can be overwhelming, especially for younger athletes when they get in. They are going to be bombarded with instant credibility, instant accessibility to anything and everything they ever wanted from their childhood dreams.
You are going to be put in a different position — a different class. You talk about the professional ranks, I don’t know the percentage, but it’s less than 1%. You have been chosen and you have an opportunity, so how do you capitalize on it? How are you going to go about leaving your mark?
For some guys, the college ranks is as good as it gets. For some guys, the high school ranks is as good as it gets. But for those who want to continue, to the upper echelon, to the higher ranks of the professional leagues, they are going to have to be able to embrace their mindset. It happens fast.
G4: How does it happen?
Roy Lewis: You instantly go from being a college student without many funds to being the main breadwinner in the family. Immediately, the roles are flipped. You go from depending on your mom to now, your mom can somewhat depend on you. I think those are some of the times, especially for young guys, that the freedom and accessibility and the instant credibility of being a professional athlete can go two ways.
The conservative way, which is, you know, get married. But for most guys who want to be single, they can go the opposite way, which is to splurge. But for most guys, it’s finding that happy medium. How do I still enjoy the fruits of my labor but at the same time stay focused and continue to burn and to continue to know that I haven’t made it yet. This is just the beginning.
Now where do I go from here? Yes, you accomplished your dream of getting to the league, but now what do you do with it? For a lot of young guys, that can stymie and stifle a lot of them. You got too many entities. Whether it is family, whether it is friends with their own personal demons, you have so many things you’re asking a younger man to devour and to hold on and to bear that cross, to bear that burden.
The Greatest Blessings
G4: Very good. One last question, Roy, what has been your greatest blessing being a professional athlete?
Roy Lewis: Beside being able to play in this league, I think about all the young men I went to high school with, played Pop Warner with, played in college with who all had dreams of being in this position. I’ve made the league.
Why me? You gotta ask yourself why you were chosen. Why did God bless you to be in the position? It’s for a reason. Then what do you do with that blessing? When you get there, do you continue to be a blessing to others? Or do you cut it off and cut yourself off and then He takes the blessing away from you.
So constantly, just trying to use the position you are in to influence. Because you do have a little bit of influence when you are in this position. People are going to listen to you a little bit closer — a little more closely than if you weren’t in this position.
How do you use the NFL as a vehicle to not only maneuver yourself through life but also to help and touch someone else’s life. That’s the key and that’s how you show growth and maturation.
As you develop as a young man, how are you continuing to better yourself because you have a small window to either be known as a great football player and afterwards escalate yourself. Or, you can be know as a great football player and when it’s all said and done, just go back to being a regular average Joe. You have nothing to show for it. It really truly is up to you as an individual to show what you do with it.