In professional sports, what makes a player’s career “legendary”? When a player defies the odds, has the determination and desire to pursue that boyhood dream, and the ability to follow through, then those are the most compelling stories that makes that player’s career trajectory memorable. Such is the case of Michael Lewis.
Born November 14, 1971, Michael Lee Lewis grew up in Metarie, LA and developed a passion for the game of football. Graduating from Grace King High School, in Metarie, in 1990, Lewis never attended college. But he never let that deter him from still wanting to play football.
To pay the bills, however, Lewis took one job for which he would forever be known. The former Budweiser beer truck driver earned the nickname “Beer Man,” and it stuck.
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But not going to college meant his path to the NFL would be…interesting, to say the least. Eight years after high school, Lewis began to make his way through the semi-professional ranks, as well as indoor leagues, and the Arena Football League. It was during a stint with the New Jersey Red Dogs that Lewis caught the eye of the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff in 2000. Signing with the Eagles in the preseason, Lewis was eventually cut before the regular season began. But upon returning to his home to deliver beer, he was given an opportunity by the hometown Saints following the 2000 season.
After being signed by the Saints, he was sent to play for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe in 2001. He returned to New Orleans to become the return specialist for the Saints, and it would be a role he would thrive in for three seasons, from 2002-2005.
On September 19, 2005, playing in New York vs the Giants, Lewis would sustain an injury to his MCL, landing him on injured reserve for the balance of the 2005 season. He would make his return to action just over a year later (October 29, 2006) in New Orleans vs the Baltimore Ravens.
The following April, Lewis returned to the Saints for one last time. But on June 15, 2007, the Saints would cut him for the last time. He would go on to a brief stint in San Francisco as the 49ers’ punt returner.
On October 10, 2008, Lewis would sign a contract to play for the Arena League’s New Orleans VooDoo. Three days later, on October 13, 2008, the VooDoo’s owner Tom Benson (coincidentally, the owner of the Saints as well) announced the team would be terminating operations.
Michael Lewis’ transition from beer truck driver to not just a player, but a star in the NFL was a source of pride and inspiration for the people of New Orleans. His close-knit relationship to the fans of this team was always on display, and never ever contrived. With Beer Man, what you saw was what you got.
After the VooDoo folded operations, Lewis became a “Team Ambassador” for the Saints. He received the holy grail for a football player, a Super Bowl ring, following the Saints’ 30-17 victory over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season. And in 2015 he was chosen to be added to the New Orleans Saints Hall Of Fame.