Hawkeye football player Jermelle Lewis earns his degree 18 years later

After his football days, Jermelle dedicated his life to working with youth athletes.
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 5:48 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Jermelle Lewis’ 141-scrimmage-yard, two touchdown gashing of Michigan back in 2002 will always be one of the biggest days in Jermelle Lewis’ life.

He had another life-changing day this winter at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, when he graduated from the University of Iowa 18 years after leaving.

“Finishing what I started,” Lewis said on his accomplishment. “I understand now that my talents and my abilities will only get me so far. There are some things that need to be done to make a difference within the community.”

After his football days, Jermelle dedicated his life to working with youth athletes. He coached football and track and field at Jefferson High School. That also played a big role in getting his degree.

“My son is watching, he’s in high school at Jefferson,” Lewis said. “What kind of coach would I be if I tell my athlete ‘you need to go pursue your dreams and go finish college’ and I didn’t do so.”

Jernelle also promised his mom he would graduate. On graduation day, he received the surprise of a lifetime.

“She didn’t tell me she was going to be in town she got in town on that Wednesday, I walked the stage on Friday and my wife kept it a big secret,” Lewis said.

Lewis walked up the stairs at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and saw his mom smiling.

“(That) was a really really big deal,” he said.

It’s been a busy year for Jermelle; he also opened his own gym on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids near Jefferson.

Lewis says he hopes Riot Gym will not only get the youth off the streets, but also give them a place to train to be become the best athletes they can be.

“Give them a place where number one it’s safe, to give them good coaching.” Lewis said. “They can also develop and hone in on their talents. It has been gratifying to be able to have something that we can use as a resource to help our kids get better.”