Top 10 Best free agents signed by the New Orleans Saints:
10. Quinn Early
9. Wesley Walls
7. Jabari Greer and Darren Sharper
6. Michael Lewis
The story of Michael Lewis (a.k.a -“the Beerman”) is well known. A graduate of Grace King High School in Metairie, LA, Lewis was an undrafted free agent who did not attend college nor played any sort of college football. Instead, Lewis played in semi-pro, pro indoor football, and the arena football league. In between those attempts at getting a job playing football and getting in the NFL, Lewis also worked for a beer distribution company in Metairie.
By the year 2000, Lewis was approaching 30 and on his last chance to live his dream of playing professional football. He had been cut by the Eagles during the preseason, but with his local team going through their most successful season in 8 years, Lewis took a chance at an open tryout.
Jim Haslett’s comments about that day are entertaining. Haslett stated that despite Lewis’ stature (5’8” 170 lbs.), he couldn’t stop watching him, he just kept watching him blow by everyone and everything on the field. The Saints signed Lewis to a contract, then assigned him the NFL’s developmental league, NFL Europe to play for the Rhein Fire in spring of 2001.
But it was in the 2002 season, that the legend of the Beerman was born.
In Landover, MD, The Saints played the Washington Redskins, andMichael Lewis introduced himself to the rest of the NFL. In a wild 43-27 win, Lewis had 396 combined total yards, including scoring a touchdown on a 83 yard punt return and a 90 yard kickoff return. Lewis also caught a 58 yard pass to set up a field goal.
For the season, Lewis set an NFL record with 2,432 total yards -1,807 kick return yards and 625 yards in punt returns. He was named first team all pro and to his first (and only) pro bowl.
Lewis had one more significant highlight in his brief career. In 2003, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lewis played a role in the River City Relay, catching the lateral pass from Donte Stallworth, before lateraling again to Deuce McAllister.
In 2005, Michael Lewis suffered a knee injury, and played one last season for the Saints 2006.
When the Saints released Lewis in 2007, he left as the team leader career leader in punt return yards, 1,482, and total punt returns with 142. For his career, he had 5,989 kick return yards and 3 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 553 yards and a touchdown.
He played briefly for the 49ers in the 2007 season, then tried one last comeback with the AFL’s New Orleans Voodoo, before team owner Tom Benson suspended team operations.
Lewis was hired as the Saints’ team ambassador, making public appearances and representing the Saints in the community.
Lewis is the Everyman. Like the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles’ Vince Papale, Lewis represented every frustrated athlete’s dream of getting an opportunity to play in the NFL, and making the most of it.