There comes a time when every man knows when to call it quits in their careers and that time finally came for one of the most legendary sports names in Sampson County history, Bob Lewis.
After many years of coaching football, 41 to be exact, Lewis finally decided to hang it up as head coach of the Clinton Dark Horses. Anyone who know Horses football is familiar with his name. He set the standard for coaching at Clinton High and in the county with his four state titles in six championship appearances. His legacy didn’t end there, as he won titles and revived football programs all across North Carolina.
After giving plenty of time and dedication to the profession, he made his decision last week before letting his staff know Monday he was calling it quits. Modest to a fault, Lewis had few words to say about the decision and the community outpouring that came in its wake.
“People are making way too much of this,” a humble Lewis remarked. “I felt that this was the time for me to do this. I have had a great career and, at the same time, I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.”
Plenty of others did the talking for Lewis, including a coach who faced him on the other sideline many years ago, longtime friend and current Sampson County Schools athletic director Al Britt.
“When it comes to Bob Lewis, there isn’t enough time to say all the wonderful things I’d like to say about him,” said Britt. “He is certainly a legend, not just in Sampson County, but in all of North Carolina.”
Getting his humble beginning in Burgaw, Lewis was always passionate about the game of football, involved in the game for the majority of his 75 years. In that time, he has done more than just thrive in sports excellence he’s touched just as many lives off the football field.
“At Clinton, everyone knows him and I tell you he’s done a lot. From everything as a coach, to what he has meant to this community, but especially all he’s done for the kids,” said Britt.
“Bob means a lot not just because of the coaching, but for how great a mentor he was to everyone from other coaches, those in the community and mainly the young men he coached,” he continued. “One of the most impressive things to me is that his coaching has created more NFL players than I can think of in all of 2A football.”
A very true statement as the likes of Leonard Henry and Superbowl champion Willie Parker are just couple of the players that reached the highest level after being under Lewis.
Though most of his legacy is known for the dynasty that he created at Clinton High he didn’t start out being a legendary Horses head coach. Coaching middle school and junior football around Clinton, he got his chance to shine as a head coach at 3A East Bladen. Then in 1973 he claimed his first title at the high school level. Once he left the Eagles of East Bladen, he went to Pender for six seasons before going to Clinton High.
After being an assistant at Clinton for awhile he took over the reins as head coach in 1988. From there, his upfront hard power running football style was established. As the years went by, it would be his go-to offense in the wing T that won him six titles and gained attention from many. Not to be forgotten was his time at Whiteville and Harrells Christian Academy where he earned his other state titles for eight-man football.
“I‘ll tell you what, winning one title is hard and some never do. For him to win six championships between multiple schools is a testament to his legacy,” Britt remarked. “I remember in my time coaching at Hobbton I think we faced them one time and that was on purpose. Anyone who knew the Dark Horses back then knew to stay off that schedule.”
Britt also pointed out one thing that has always held true about Lewis that he admired. No matter how you knew Lewis, be it through coaching, teaching or just as a regular person, you always knew who he was and what type of person he is.
“One thing I’ve always liked about him is that he’s always been a straight shooter,” said Britt. “Even through all his success and accomplishments as a coach, he always remained down to earth.”
Reach Michael Hardison at [email protected] Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.