Cross Country

Pirate athlete plays football and runs cross country


Above, Napoleon senior Dwayne Lewis has already learned to love running cross country, largely because in just over a week of practice he has bonded well with his teammates.

By John Hummer

Napoleon High School football coach Derek Shell says that defensive back and receiver Dwayne Lewis is one of the hardest working athletes he has been around. That speaks volumes. And it may even be understated. He could be the hardest working athlete around.

Why? With the reinstatement of high school football beginning this week, Lewis is a two-sport athlete – just this fall in simultaneous sports! In addition to his normal sport of football, Dwayne has taken up cross country running.

What prompted Dwayne to be, shall we say, “crazy enough”, to do both sports at once? When it appeared in August that high school football was going to be postponed until spring, NHS cross country coach Becky Norman spoke with NHS varsity football coach Derek Shell and invited any of Shell’s players to join the cross country team to stay in shape and be a “part of a team”.

 “I would welcome them”, Norman said. “I didn’t care how much they contributed. I just wanted to give them something to do. [Norman] extended the invitation to the team and Dwayne said he wanted to do it.” He started cross country practices in the last week of August. Little did he know that the football season would be back in a little over a week.

Napoleon senior Dwayne Lewis is a receiver and defensive back in football and will likely add tailback to his repertoire this fall.

“I’m going to dual-sport because I’ve already started cross country and have already started developing a dedication towards it,” Dwayne shared. The team had its first meet this Tuesday – a home contest against Leslie.

“I’ve already started developing a bond with all the teammates and I just didn’t want to quit cross country on them,” he said.

Dwayne has already worked out a schedule with both coaches so he can practice with each team and show up to play in football games and run at cross country meets.

Dwayne says his biggest challenges are going to be “a little physically and mentally tired” – “But I’m going to try to push through it,” he says. “A lot of it is going to be mental.”

With his extra conditioning from cross country, Coach Shell is considering putting Dwayne in at tailback as well on offense.

“This would be my first year at tailback, but I think I’m ready to take up the challenge of learning that new position – I’m ready to see how that goes.”

“He is an awesome young man who works extremely hard,” Shell says. “In the past four years, you can probably count on one hand the number of summer workouts he has missed.”

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Norman has coached girls cross country for 17 years and is coaching a joint boys-girls country team at NHS beginning with this fall.

“My senior leaders – Alex Darnell and Hugo Gamez – [Dwayne] was the first name that they said they wanted. They said, ‘We want Dwayne.’ They saw him running and seen him working during football practices and knew he had some talent. He reached out and joined us a couple of days later and he’s been a great asset. He’s a hard worker, he’s really positive, and he never says a word about anything. He’s a great kid to have around. He leads by example – he does what we ask him to do, puts a smile on his face, and is thankful for the workout.”

She also stated that the added conditioning Dwayne gets in cross country will make him that much better in football.

“There’s an adjustment from what they do in football and running,” Norman stated. “This would be aerobic abilities you need for running versus football.”

Now Dwayne is a four-sport athlete – with football and cross country in the fall, wrestling in the winter, and baseball in the spring.

 “He is always looking to improve himself,” Shell said. “When we started offering a 6:15 a.m. workout class at Napoleon, Dwayne joined. He always shows up to practice with a positive attitude that is infectious to the rest of the team.” Dwayne gets up at 5 a.m. every day and works out on his own.

The eyes of a winner: Napoleon senior Dwayne Lewis will be dual-sporting in cross country and football this fall.

“I put in a lot of work at home as well,” he says.

Last summer Dwayne dislocated his elbow at the team’s first 7-on-7 practice game and when Shell visited him in the hospital, he was his same positive self – just talking about when he could get back on the field.

He is an extremely coachable and hard-working kid,” Shell noted. He expects that hard work to help him contribute to the success of the cross-country team as well. “I know Coach Norman will have him in shape for football season.”

 “In the classroom, he is just as hard-working,” says Shell, a math teacher at NHS. Dwayne says with the new rotating schedule due to COVID of just having to attend three classes per day for longer periods of time (six classes total), he is able to find a lot of time during the school day to get homework done.

Aside from just being now a four-sport athlete, Dwayne works during the summer and school year as well. He plans to attend Jackson College for two years after high school graduation.

“The rest is still to be decided.” Whatever Dwayne decides, with his unparalleled work ethic, he will no doubt be a success in this world.

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