TAMPA (FOX 13) - He is the only head coach the Seffner Christian Academy football program has ever known. Steve Lewis has worked at various programs throughout his 40-plus years of coaching, but Seffner is where his presence is most strongly felt -- and will be most sorely missed.
Lewis retires from coaching with 161 wins in his stints with the Crusaders and Temple Heights Christian. That win total is good for fourth on the active list in Hillsborough County.
With every win, every game in fact, Coach Lewis instructed and inspired.
Nearly five years ago, Lewis was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He has continued to work the sideline, and in the classroom. But as this season neared its end, he decided that he would make this year his last.
"Parkinson's is eventually going to win out," Lewis told FOX 13. "So what I'm going to dedicate the rest of myself to is maybe teaching football on the side to younger kids, and keep doing my own personal routine to keep everything at arm's length."
The Seffner Christian Crusaders play their home games at Tampa Bay Tech. The season finale against Calvary Christian provided the opportunity for family, friends and former players to thank Steve Lewis for all that he has done for the program and each of the lives he has touched.
All five of his sons played football for Lewis. Caleb Lewis played quarterback for his dad.
"I think the best thing you could say about my dad," Caleb said, " He's not only a great football coach -- X's and O's wise -- but he's a better man."
That sentiment was repeated again and again on the field and on the sidelines.
Seffner Christian lost to Calvary Christian in the closing moments of Coach Lewis's last game. As he has done throughout his life, Steve Lewis put the game in perspective for his players who had rallied so hard down the stretch.
"Thank you," Lewis told his team, " For giving the kind of effort that you gave, and don't think for one minute that there is anything wrong with this moment."
It was a moment that his players will always remember. In time, the hurt of the loss will fade. The memory will be about dealing with adversity and moving forward.
Steve Lewis provides this example each and every day.