Lewis Colbert, who was our punter on the 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985 Auburn teams, is writing a book that is scheduled to be out later this year about how he overcame a physical handicap and became an All-American punter.
I have been asked to write the foreword for the book and it is an honor to do that.
I don’t even know if it is well-known that Lewis was born with a club foot. The book is his story about overcoming a serious handicap to achieve his dream of becoming an outstanding athlete.
As a child Lewis had to go through the numerous operations and wear braces on his feet and legs just to be able to walk. His father died when he was five years old. He had brothers who were a lot older than he was and he lived with his mother who worked in a cotton mill.
The book is his life story about growing up with a handicap and overcoming it to become the starting punter at Auburn for four years and being elected captain of the team, which is highly unusual for a kicking specialist. He also punted four years in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs until a back injury ended his football career, but he moved into the business world and has been just as successful in that area.
His book is a story about overcoming all of the odds and the determination it took to do that growing up with low self esteem as a youngster when it was just him and his mother. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to go to school as a child not being able to run, jump and do all of the things the other kids were doing and being left out of so many of the activities.
Lewis beating the odds, with his courage and determination, is a story that needs to be told and needs to be read. For the ones of us who have been healthy most of our lives it will make you appreciate folks who have a handicap. I think it will inspire young folks, and older folks who have a handicap, and help them to try to overcome it.
The success Lewis has had in his business career has paralleled his success on the football field. He has an impressive job running the warehouse operations for a large tire company. For many years he lived in Texas, but has moved back to the southeast near Atlanta where he lives with his wife and two children.
The story of Lewis Colbert is just a great Auburn story. The thing I remember about Lewis is that when I first saw him I didn’t even realize he had a handicap. He was going through the offseason program prior to the 1982 season like a lot of other walk-ons who wanted to play football at Auburn. At that time he was just another walk-on and I didn’t know his name. We had lots of walk-ons back then and he was just another one of them.
After the 1981 season we had to replace our punter, Alan Bollinger, and it seemed like everybody thought they could do it. We had a lot of walk-ons trying to impress the coaching staff.
I can still remember going out to the practice field seeing all of those punters out there trying to make the team. It didn’t take long for Lewis to separate himself from the others. You could be anywhere on the practice field with your back turned to the kickers and know where Lewis was. When he kicked a football it had a distinct sound that was different than the other punters because of the power in his leg.
In addition he had perfect form and kicked it a mile high. I have often heard people say when you are watching outstanding baseball players like a Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Bo Jackson or Albert Puholz taking batting practice the ball sounded different coming off their bat. That is the way it was when Lewis was out on the field punting. When his foot hit the ball it created a noise that made the other punters sound soft in comparison.
Lewis took tremendous pride in being the best football player he could be and he did everything he could to be successful. He proved to be a special player to his teammates who knew about the handicap he had overcome. The fact that he was elected team captain by the players for the 1985 season shows what type of person and player Lewis was for us during his time at Auburn.
His book will be out sometime in late summer or early fall and it is a must read for all Auburn people or anybody who is looking to read an inspiring story.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
Pat Dye’s Crooked Oaks Hunting Preserve and Lodge
Pat Dye’s Quail Hollow Gardens
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