Lewis talked about his message, saying, "I am trying to tell the students here that there are some choices they are going to have to make, hopefully they are going to make good choices. A lot of us make mistakes, make bad choices, and keep secrets. We have warped minds in a lot of ways, thinking a lot of crazy stuff. We are dumb, we are stupid, we are not as good as and that is just not true."
Lewis, who spent 13 seasons in the NFL, appeared in five Super Bowls with the Cowboys, winning the biggest show on earth two times in 1972 and 1978.
Lewis added, "From my life looking back, I didn't confide in a lot people because I did a lot of bad stuff I didn't want people to know about. What that did was prolonged my agony. I think the message I am trying to get through is we all got problems and we all need help and to make it through these periods in life when we are going to be down and we are going to be out, we need help and there is nothing wrong with asking for it."
Lewis was invited to speak by Dean Delk, who read an article about Lewis' life in Tennessee Farmers magazine and asked him to come down and speak to the students in Chapel Hill.
In his last game as a Cowboy in the January 10, 1982 NFC Championship Game between the Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, Lewis was the player seen by millions of T.V. viewers chasing 49er quarterback Joe Montana to the sidelines, arriving a split second late as Montana found Dwight Clark in the end zone for "The Catch", which is generally regarded as one of the most unforgettable events in NFL history.
Lewis, who was born in Knoxville, was the youngest of 14 children, attended Fulton High School and the University of Mississippi before being drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft in 1968.
It all seems like a storybook life, but Lewis led what he called a double life, filled with drug and alcohol use, which eventually cost him his marriage and separation from his two children for many years.
At Forrest school on Wednesday, Lewis talked about time spent in a reformatory prison as a teenager, cheating his way through high school, and his habitual drug and alcohol problem that would send him to the dark years of his life before his reformation in Feb. 1986.
"My only friend left in the world at that time was my cocaine dealer", recalled Lewis.
Lewis had hit rock bottom, but said that was the defining moment in his life when he finally looked in the mirror and admitted to himself and his loved ones that he indeed had a drug problem and was ready to change his life.
During his sobriety, Lewis reconnected with God. "Looking back, I think God has positioned people in my life at just the right time and just the right place", said Lewis.
Since that time when Lewis came out of the dark period in his life he decided to give back and help other people and the Potash Corporation gave him that opportunity working in the company's community outreach program, talking to junior high and high school students about lessons he's learned in life.
Lewis said, "I hurt a lot of people, I killed my marriage, and I hurt my kids. I denied them the love they should have had. So, I get a chance today to rectify all that by trying to help these kids."
Delk talked about Lewis' visit, "It has just been pleasant. He relates well with all age people and did a terrific program in our school (CHES) on plant nutrients and how to best conserve our land and our resources where we can produce enough food to feed us because the world is growing, growing, growing."
Delk also spoke about Lewis' message of mentorship, saying, "Every child has the strength, but also have areas of need. Our job as educators is to assist those children with areas where they have bumps in the road. There is nothing anymore rewarding than a child to wake up one day and to see where the light bulb goes off. When children are successful, I am successful, and that is a terrific feeling to see that."
Asked about the mentoring of former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and his second chance at life and in the NFL, Lewis said, "It has to be a tremendous help for him with a person like Dungy. What a great role a great person he is. I am sure Dungy encouraged him. Hey, we all make mistakes. They guy served his time now let's give him a chance. I hope he does wonderful. I hope he does great. So many of us make mistakes and we don't recover. I love to see people come back from adversity and I would like to see him do good."