For Lewis, pre­ci­sion on and off the field

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

Alex Lewis’ hands are in­stru­men­tal in his line of work. As a rookie who has shifted be­tween start­ing at left guard and left tackle for the Ravens, Lewis uses his hands to stop de­fen­sive line­men and lineback­ers, to open lanes for run­ning back Ter­rance West or set up a pocket for quar­ter­back Joe Flacco.

Those same hands have been used for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose: turn­ing cords of wood i nto bed frames, bot­tle-opener catches and cutting boards.

On game days, Lewis — a fourth-round draft pick by the Ravens this year — is a 6-foot-6, 315-pound be­he­moth who wants to mash his op­po­nents into sub­mis­sion. On days off and some nights, he is an avid wood­worker who op­er­ates in a shop he set up in the garage of his home near the team’s train­ing fa­cil­ity in Owings Mills.

“I en­joy it,” Lewis said. “I just like be­ing out­side and be­ing in the shop with my [two res­cue] dogs, and sit­ting down and go­ing to work.”

In his work­shop, Lewis has sev­eral va­ri­eties of saws, a steel sawhorse and a work­bench. There’s fish­ing and boat­ing equip­ment hang­ing on the walls, but on Tues­day, Lewis de­voted his time to mak­ing a Mur­phy cab­i­net for an empty wall.

Lewis, who took about four hours to Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 2

fin­ish the cab­i­net, equated building a wood prod­uct to play­ing of­fen­sive line.

“I like pre­ci­sion, and be­ing an of­fen­sive line­man, ev­ery­thing is about tech­nique and fun­da­men­tals,” he said.

Few team­mates and coaches know about Lewis’ off-field hobby. Coach John Har­baugh ex­pressed sur­prise when in­formed of it.

Guard John Urschel, Lewis’ men­tor on the team, said he got a hint of the rookie’s me­chan­i­cal skills when he vis­ited his home re­cently and found him swap­ping out parts for his truck.

“He likes to do things with his hands,” Urschel said. “It’s good to have some­thing out­side of foot­ball that you can do that just takes your mind away from it.”

Lewis’ pas­sion for wood­work­ing can be traced to sev­eral mem­bers of his fam­ily. His pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Terry Lewis, worked in the con­struc­tion busi­ness, and his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Walt Broer, is a con­trac­tor. Both men, who worked fre­quently with wood, took Lewis to job sites to get a taste of what they did dur­ing his ado­les­cent years.

Oth­ers also helped fuel Lewis’ artis­tic abil­ity. His mother, Kim­berly, founded the Phoenix Suns’ dance team, and his un­cle, Kurt Broer, owns a steel mill. But Alex Lewis cred­its his grand­fa­thers for his pas­sion.

“Both of my grand­fa­thers were huge into wood­work­ing and with them be­ing con­trac­tors, grow­ing up it just rubbed off on me,” he said.

Terry Lewis, who died last year, built a night­stand-drawer set for his then-8-year-old grand­son that has with­stood time and mul­ti­ple moves, from Ari­zona to Colorado to Ne­braska to Mary­land. He also carved wooden pens that Alex Lewis still has at his home.

Walt Broer — who lives in Lin­coln, Neb., with his wife Joy, an in­te­rior de­signer — said his grand­son’s artis­tic tal­ent sur­faced at an early age.

“There were in­di­ca­tions be­cause he al­ways liked to draw,” Broer said, not­ing that Alex Lewis took apart a bro­ken-down mo­tor­cy­cle sev­eral years ago and re­assem­bled it so that it ran again. “He did a lot with paint. We have Alex Lewis works in his garage, which he has turned into a wood­work­ing shop. “Both of my grand­fa­thers were huge into wood­work­ing and with them be­ing con­trac­tors, grow­ing up it just rubbed off on me,” he said. sev­eral of his paint­ings that I would call col­lec­tor’s items. He’s very ar­tis­ti­cally tal­ented, and his sis­ter [Tay­lor] also. His mom has a dance stu­dio. So he’s been around the arts for a while.”

Kim­berly Lewis re­called that her son was named the top over­all artist in mid­dle school. She said she still keeps her son’s art­work on her wall and keeps sev­eral of his wood­work­ing pieces.

Kim­berly Lewis said peo­ple who as­sume that Alex thinks, eats and sleeps foot­ball are star­tled to hear about her son’s artis­tic back­ground.

“He didn’t play foot­ball un­til he was older,” she said. “He trained in dance. He’d go to art shows, he was around the the­ater. Yeah, I think they’re very sur­prised, but that’s what makes him who he is. He’s ded­i­cated and has such a pas­sion for the game of foot­ball and is so fo­cused at it. But he also has a side of him that is very in­volved in the arts. He loves go­ing to con­certs, he loves go­ing to art shows, has gone to a lot of dif­fer­ent art ex­hibits. He’s just well-rounded as a hu­man be­ing.”

Alex Lewis said he is work­ing on a wooden bed frame for his home, and a few pieces for his wall. He has vis­ited area stores to col­lect unused pieces of wood and bring them back to his shop.

Lewis said one of the big­gest pit­falls about wood­work­ing giv­ing in to frus­tra­tion.

“When you rush a project and take a corner off or it’s not aligned prop­erly or you didn’t sand an edge or cut it just right so that it’s off by an eighth of an inch, that can throw off the whole bal­ance of a piece,” he said. “I’m still a young guy, so I still make mis­takes. You try to be a per­fec­tion­ist.”

Lewis’ use of sharp ob­jects might raise eye­brows with the Ravens, but his mother said her son has al­ways been dili­gent about safety.

The foot­ball sea­son has cut down on Lewis’ op­por­tu­ni­ties to work in his shop at home. But he said he tries to spend as much as time as he can in the shop be­cause it’s an es­cape from his daily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“Work­ing with wood and steel is re­ally ther­a­peu­tic,” he said. “Steel, it’s a lit­tle more for­giv­ing, be­lieve it or not, than it is with wood. Steel, you can bend all dif­fer­ent types of ways. Steel is a lot of fun to work with. It’s very ther­a­peu­tic be­cause what you see is

No trades at dead­line

The NFL trade dead­line came and went at 4 p.m. Tues­day with­out the Ravens’ mak­ing any moves.

That should hardly come as a sur­prise. The Ravens have never made a trade on dead­line day in fran­chise his­tory.

The Ravens did make one trans­ac­tion Tues­day. They ter­mi­nated the con­tract of prac­tice-squad run­ning back Stephen Hous­ton, who had a solid train­ing camp with the team.

With Ter­rance West, Ken­neth Dixon, Buck Allen and Lorenzo Tali­a­ferro all healthy, the Ravens ap­par­ently be­lieve they don’t need an­other back on the prac­tice squad.

They didn’t im­me­di­ately an­nounce who will take Hous­ton’s place, mean­ing they still have one prac­tice-squad open­ing. — Jeff Zre­biec in your head, you can make. With wood, it’s less mal­leable. But it does help my nerves. It calms me down.”

Lewis, who usu­ally works dur­ing the day­time so that the noise from his power tools doesn’t dis­turb his neigh­bors, said he has been in­spired by pieces he has seen on Pin­ter­est, and hopes to one day run his own wood­work­ing blog.

“I want to teach peo­ple and show them what they can do with wood,” he said. “And it just shows that NFL play­ers are more than just ath­letes. And a lot of peo­ple, when they hear wood­work­ing, they think, ‘Oh, fur­ni­ture.’ But there’s a lot more to it. It helps you ap­pre­ci­ate what’s around you.”

Lewis said he can en­vi­sion be­com­ing a car­pen­ter af­ter his NFL ca­reer has ended. He al­ready knows that work­ing a 9-to-5 job is not for him.

“I don’t see my­self sit­ting in an of­fice in a suit and tie,” Lewis said. “I see my­self in jeans and a flan­nel.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ravens rookie of­fen­sive line­man Alex Lewis works Tues­day on mak­ing a Mur­phy cab­i­net for the wood­work­ing shop in his garage.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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