FOOTBALL

Former USC football star set to appear at Strike Zone camp

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − With so many high school student athletes trying to navigate their way to a future at the next level, Strike Zone Academy is hoping to be a guiding light.

A football camp, being held on Saturday at Strike Zone Academy, is geared towards not only towards expanding the skills on the gridiron for students aged 9 through 18 years old, but also to motivate those students who have an eye on their future plans on and off the field.

Strike Zone Academy, which serves not only as a training center for football, baseball, and other sports, is hoping to expand their reach by teaching students how to go beyond youth sports and take their talents to college.

Bob Shuttleworth, who works as a marketing spokesman for Strike Zone Academy as well as a part of the coaching staff for the Farmington High School football team, is hoping camps and events like these will serve as an opportunity for parents and students to learn more about the recruiting process.

"What we want to do this weekend is bring in high caliber talent to spread their knowledge into our community," Shuttleworth said. "To that end, we wanted to get some big names and make them available for our kids."

Wendell "Butch" Lewis, who currently serves as a mechanical engineer at a Denver-area hospital, is a graduate of the University of Southern California who spent four seasons as a starting offensive lineman for the Trojans from 2006 through 2010. Following his college playing days, Lewis spent one season in the National Football League with both the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.

Lewis hopes his story, from one of the most highly recruited talents in prep football to being out of the sport in less than 10 years, will serve as inspiration to make the most of opportunities presented to other prep athletes.

"I feel like that's our duty as former athletes to give back," Lewis said. "It's important to let them know what they can look forward to if this is something they want to do."

Lewis, from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, was one of the most sought-after prep football players in the country before deciding on attending USC. In 2005, playing as a defensive lineman, Lewis was named to the Parade Magazine All-American first team after recording 65 tackles and 7 sacks in his senior year. As a junior in 2004, he made the All-State second team while getting 10 sacks.

"I had visits everywhere before settling on USC," Lewis said. "I was recruited by Notre Dame and had a lot of schools interested in me."

USC offensive lineman Butch Lewis (68) looks downfield while blocking for running back Marc Tyler during a game against San Jose State University, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

After making the transition from defensive lineman to offensive lineman in 2007, Lewis appeared in 10 games for the Trojans including three starts. He was named to the 2007 Freshman All-American second team by The Sporting News Freshman, as well as Collegefootballnews.com and was a Freshman All-American honorable mention in the Pac-10 Conference.

"I was fortunate that I had those opportunities," Lewis said. "It's one of the real things I want these kids to know now, and that's the opportunity is so rare that it makes no sense not to take advantage of it as best you can."

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Lewis suffered a variety of injuries during the 2008 and 2010 seasons and missed significant time as a result of those injuries. After earning his degree from USC, Lewis was undrafted and wound up being signed as a free agent by the Chiefs in 2011. He was waived during training camp before being signed and later released by the Vikings.

In addition to teaching football players about technique and skills on the football field, Lewis also hopes to open students eyes to the importance of not just playing at the next level, but the added value of the college experience.

Butch Lewis of the USC Trojans looks on before a game against the Oregon Ducks on October 4, 2008 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  USC won 44-10.

"It's easy to get into the mindset of going to have a great career and make all the money, but the reality is your career is going to be short," Lewis said. "Having that diploma, that degree for your future and the future of your family and your kids is something that can't be taken from you."

According to a study published by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2019, only the top eight percent of the top one percent of high school football players will make it to the NFL.

In 2014, nearly 1.1 million high schoolers played football. Only six percent of those players (approximately 71,000) played in college. The drop off from college to the pros is even more dramatic, with a little more than one percent of those college-level players getting drafted to the NFL. 

"And the business of college football is changing all the time," Lewis said. "As much tradition as there is in going to play football at a university, there's a business element to it and these kids need to know how to market themselves and make themselves available and get their names out there."

Shuttleworth, who also works as a coach for the local Young American Football League program, feels it's just as important for kids to understand the world outside the field of athletics.

"All of us around the community have a responsibility to let these kids know that there's other opportunities for education out there," Shuttleworth said. "Finding the right ways to communicate with these colleges and making sure we as coaches have relationships with colleges here and in Colorado requires a whole other commitment."

The camp, which is still accepting registrations, will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. and costs $35 per student. For more information about the camp, call (505) 486-4069 or visit the Strike Zone Academy website.