On the same day the Minnesota Vikings were taking a beating because off-field actions, the franchise’s former director of player development, Leo Lewis, was hired by the University of Minnesota as an associate athletics director for student-athlete development. Lewis’ primary responsibilities will be planning and administering the department’s community outreach programs, student-athlete development and diversity education. He will also serve as the primary administrator and liaison to the Gopher Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Champs/Life Skills Program and selected support units within the athletics department.
“We are very excited about the hiring of Dr. Leo Lewis,” said Joel Maturi, U of M athletics director. “Dr. Lewis will be very instrumental in the development and progression of each student-athlete at the University of Minnesota as both individuals and athletes. He brings a wealth of impressive credentials to the position and will be a major influence on everyone involved with Gopher Athletics.”
Lewis most recently served as the President of the Board at the Lewis Sports Foundation, a non-profit community service organization he founded in 1999. The foundation is dedicated to providing secondary school students with the ability to develop life skills through education and physical activity. Lewis also was a mental health practitioner at the Argosy University Family Center in Minneapolis the past two years. In that role, he conducted individual, couple, family and group therapy sessions with diverse populations, in addition to writing and documenting evaluations, making diagnosis, setting goals of therapy and developing action plans.
From 1992-2005, Lewis held the position of director of player development for the Vikings, a team he played 11 seasons for from 1981-91. Lewis’ responsibilities in that role involved coordinating segments of the program that included planning meetings, distributing information about financial education, continuing education, career internships, family and personal services. He also provided off the field counseling for players and their families, in addition to consulting players on sports performance and life development issues. Lewis also wrote, edited and published the Vikings’ player and alumni newsletter.
“I am very excited about the position and the opportunity to work in the area of student-athlete development and community outreach,” Lewis said. “The opportunity comes at a very good time in my career. I feel the experiences I have gained over the years as a professional athlete, mentor and educator will serve me very well in this type of environment. I welcome the opportunity to work with the fine student-athletes at the University of Minnesota and providing guidance that will hopefully make them better individuals and athletes.”
Lewis holds several degrees of higher education, including a Doctorate of Philosophy, Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. He also has a Master of Arts degree in marriage and family therapy from Argosy University in Eagan, Minn., and a Master of Science degree in physical education from the University of Tennessee. Lewis received his Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Missouri where he was a four-year letterman and three-year starting quarterback and wide receiver from 1975-78.
Lewis began his professional football career in 1979 when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. He then moved into the Canadian Football League the following year for one season with the Calgary Stampeders before beginning his 11-year career with the Vikings. He recently co-authored The 2004 National Football League Player Development Survey Report that proposed and directed a needs assessment survey of all NFL players concerning player development issues and programs.
Lewis begins his duties on Monday.