3 months ago

Birmingham Iron coach Tim Lewis embarks on a new chapter of his career

Cut Day is a painful day on a pro football team, and Tim Lewis knows that as well as anybody.

The 57-year-old has been on the staffs of football teams – either as an assistant or as a coordinator – for 30 seasons. Twenty-two of those seasons were in the pro ranks, where men’s hopes of living the dream of a professional football player were dashed when they were called into an office and told their days with the team were over.

This year was tougher for Lewis than any before. As the head coach of the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football, he was the one who delivered the bad news to the men who didn’t make the 52-player roster.

“There were a couple of moments where I got choked up and had a difficult time saying goodbye to certain people,” Lewis said. “It is a difficult time. It’s a difficult thing. I’ve never had to do that.

“Although I will say it is a very necessary part of the game and I understand it and they understand it, there’s still a human element to it,” he said. “None of us like to experience it, but it’s a very real part of the game.”

Lewis is experiencing a new part of the game as he prepares to lead the Birmingham Iron into its first game in the AAF, taking on the Memphis Express at 3 p.m. Sunday at Legion Field. As the new league kicks off without a kickoff – as part of league rules – the former Green Bay Packers cornerback embarks on a new part of his professional career.

“When they say that you’re the head coach and you’re responsible for all of them — I care very much about all the players that we’ve got. I care very much about the staff. I try to keep it in perspective. It’s really not about me. It’s really about the team,” he said.

Against the oddsmakers

Lewis is ranked eighth of the eight coaches in the AAF, according to thelastwordonprofootball.com. His lack of head coaching experience is cited as the main reason. Birmingham’s coach says he understands.

“I figured as much,” he said. “When we had the draft over in Las Vegas, they gave us 15-1 odds on winning. I don’t know anything about gambling or odds or anything like that, but I do know that we were dead last.

“I get it,” he continued. “It’s not because of the players. We’ve got a really good team and we’ve got really good players at all the different positions. It’s just because of the coach. I’ve never done it before, so I get that. That’s natural.”

It’s also natural, Lewis said, for those odds and that website ranking of him to be motivation. But thelastwordonprofootball.com isn’t discounting Lewis, either.

“Although Lewis might not have as much experience as the other coaches listed here, he is what this league should best represent,” the site said. “He is a coach that is looking for an opportunity and he will get that shot coaching in the AAF.”

League of opportunity

Iron running back Trent Richardson said it’s about time for Lewis to step into the top role.

“Really, I don’t see why he wasn’t a head coach in the beginning,” the former Alabama Crimson Tiderunner said. “He should have been a head coach a long time ago because of the values that he has, and what he brings to the table is really bringing this team together.”

Lewis teaches his players like he does his three kids, Richardson said, and he cares about all his players.

“He’s a player’s coach and he really listens to the players,” Richardson said. “He actually played the game, so you look at stuff the way he has done stuff, growing up and the great players he has played with and coached … he’s one of the smartest guys out there.”

Lewis relishes the AAF’s nickname as the league of opportunity.

“(That’s) what they’ve been touting and that’s what I believe that they’ve given me, a wonderful opportunity to showcase, to do what I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful for that opportunity and I plan on making the most of it.”

A life in football

Lewis’ football life took off as a college player at the University of Pittsburgh and continued when he was drafted in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, taken 11th overall by the Green Bay Packers.

As a player, Lewis led or shared the lead on the team in interceptions in 1983 and 1985, finishing with a career total of 16. His 99-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 18, 1984, remains the Packers team record.

Wearing jersey No. 26, he played four NFL seasons before his playing career was cut short by a severe neck injury suffered during a Monday Night game against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 22, 1986.

The Quakertown, Pennsylvania, native knew from the time he was drafted into the NFL that football would be his life. By spring 1987, the former Pittsburgh Panther was a grad assistant at Texas A&M.

But there were flirtations with other careers. After getting an undergraduate degree in economics, he had stints with Shearson Lehman and EF Hutton. He also fielded a call from Chris Berman and the late Tom Mees about a 24-hour, all-sports cable station, ESPN.

“I didn’t think it would work,” he admitted. “But I did call live from the Packer locker room the year that we drafted Brent Fulwood from Auburn. But I just didn’t follow up on it. And I had interviewed with ABC and NBC but didn’t follow up with it. Of course, I became a coach.”

Lewis’ coaching career began at Texas A&M as a graduate assistant under Jackie Sherrill, who had been his college coach at Pittsburgh. From there, he was:

Football family

With so many coaches in his past, which one has influenced him the most?

“Oh, my goodness, that’s a tough question,” Lewis said. “Bill Cowher was the one that I was with the longest, so I probably pattern myself after him the most. I like coach Jackie Sherrill; he was my college coach. He is still a mentor to me today.”

Lewis and his wife, Shawn, have three children – a 12-year-old son, Bryce, and two daughters, 14-year-old Erin and 10-year-old Chelsea. His cousin is ESPN personality Louis Riddick, who followed him at the University of Pittsburgh. Rob Riddick, Louis’ brother, played professional football with the Buffalo Bills.

Lewis has a sister who lives in Atlanta and a brother, Will, who has one son playing with the Buffalo Bills and another at the University of Colorado prepping for the NFL Draft.

“We’ve come from a long line of football players,” the Birmingham coach said. “In fact, Alan Page is a distant cousin. He played for the Minnesota Vikings, of course, and was one of the Purple People Eaters.” Page began a legal career after his playing days and retired as a Minnesota Supreme Court justice.

Lewis will renew his acquaintance with his brother on Sunday, as Will Lewis is the general manager of the Memphis Express.

“He’s very talented at what he does and he’s been very close to the mountaintop, if you will,” the Iron coach said. “He’s done a fantastic job every place he’s been, and I’m very proud of him and happy to say he’s my brother. But I plan on beating him.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes lottery bill

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate passed Sen. Greg Albritton’s (R-Range) lottery bill as amended after hours of debate on Thursday, advancing the legislation to the House.

SB 220 was passed by the upper chamber on a 21-12 vote.

As a constitutional amendment, the bill needed 21 votes exactly for passage. The margins were as tight as could be, with one state senator appearing to rush up to the Senate secretary at the last moment to change his vote to “aye” in order to get over the threshold.

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Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville), who sponsored dueling lottery legislation, spoke after the vote to express that he now supports Albritton’s bill because it ultimately will allow his constituents to not need to drive to Georgia to get a lottery ticket.

McClendon urged the House not to amend the bill but instead let it move on to a referendum of the people.

Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), who wanted a version of the bill which would have allowed further gaming and revenue and voted against the bill in committee on Tuesday, expressed his agreement with McClendon’s remarks, saying the legislation the Senate passed was not perfect but good enough. He also asked the House to advance the bill to a vote of the people.

Follow a live tweet thread here.

This is a breaking news story and may be updated.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Cindy Griner is a 2019 Woman of Impact

Huntsville’s high-tech explosion has done wonders for the state of Alabama.

While this continuing economic boon gets much fanfare when new project announcements, groundbreakings and ribbon ceremonies happen, the many individuals who serve as the backbone of north Alabama’s technology sector often get overlooked.

Cindy Griner, vice president of the Engineering Services and Solutions Division at Dynetics, is one of these people that garners little outside attention but is, in fact, a giant of the industry.

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A 36-year veteran of Dynetics, Griner also serves as the president of Dynetics’ wholly owned subsidiary, Aviation and Missile Solutions. Her division is responsible for electro-optical/infrared and acoustic sensor systems; lethal mechanisms; platform integration; Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) ground programming and trainers; and CMMI Level 3 computer applications.

She oversees major contract activities, with a primary focus on engineering services and development activities for the U.S. military and defense community. This is a big money business, where the stakes of getting it wrong are the highest – we are, after all, talking about modern, highly complicated national defense mechanisms here.

While Griner is now one of the most powerful and influential members of Huntsville’s high-tech industry, her journey to get there was not easy. As she explained, this was not an industry when she got started that was particularly friendly to women.

“In the 80’s when I began work, there were only two women on the technical staff of my company,” Griner told Yellowhammer News. “I was very young and admittedly ‘green.’ There was largely the perception that women are not technical, are too emotional, and don’t think strategically.”

“Women were sometimes overtly harassed,” she said, adding that sexual harassment training was not yet a norm.

However, joining Dynetics in 1982, she found a culture where she could strive on her merit – and a mentor that supported her along the way.

“I had the tremendous benefit of working for Tom Baumbach in an ethical company founded on excellence,” Griner explained. “Tom was very open-minded and encouraging. He never looked at my limitations, he looked at my potential. He mentored and believed in me and helped me to believe in myself.”

This is not to say there were not unique challenges of being a woman in a traditionally male field.

Griner outlined, “The ‘challenges’ of questioned credibility, men assuming I was hired because I was female, and the occasional overt harassment sparked a defiance and strength that fueled my desire to achieve. I worked harder, double checked my work, went above and beyond in my preparation largely to prove to both myself and those who would believe otherwise that I brought real value to my employer and my customers.”

She advised that with every challenge came an opportunity to overcome that obstacle.

Griner mentioned her educational attainment as a way to address some doubts, both internal and external. She earned her master’s in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1992.

“At the urging of my mentor, I became a life-long learner. I continued my technical education, obtaining my MSEE, which added to both my credibility and my confidence,” Griner said.

She also offered some wisdom, gleaned from personal experience, on being able to take a step back and gain perspective.

“Over time I learned self-awareness,” Griner noted. “I learned to use my strengths, but just as importantly, to rely on others for their strengths.”

She added, “I occasionally experienced setbacks, but over time I learned perspective and I learned perseverance. Better days will come. No one stays on the peak. We all experience peaks and valleys; the valleys give you the perspective to recognize the sweetness of the peaks. For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

And for Griner, the peaks have indeed been sweet. She has supported a number of huge customers and programs during her tenure with Dynetics, including most recently the U.S. Army Futures Command; Aviation and Missile Center in UAS interoperability; architectures; MBSE, prototyping and integration of emerging technologies; and AO/PO trainer development for Army Air Force programs such as Shadow, Gray Eagle, Hunter, Reaper and Global Hawk.

She named the the Javelin missile system and Army UAS program development as perhaps her crowning jewel, the projects she is most proud of.

In a true sign of leadership, Griner also explained how what makes her proud has evolved over time.

“Early in my career it was about what ‘I’ did… in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom… systems that I personally supported in development and training have been used to make our soldiers and airmen safer and more effective. In fact I have a GI Joe in my office that was one of the first 50 produced in honor of one of those programs,” she advised.

More recently, Griner’s duties and responsibilities have grown to become more about her Dynetics family.

This included her leading the 2011 Dynetics ESOP Transaction.

“I worked with a small employee committee to transition Dynetics to 100% Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) ensuring our employees reap the benefits of their dedication and excellence,” Griner highlighted.

“This was a huge undertaking that gave me the rare opportunity to work closely with outstanding female professionals from nationally recognized law and retirement firms on something that would make a huge impact on our company and our employees,” she added. “A few years later, I led the design and implementation of an internal market for our ESOP, creating increased investment opportunity for employees and underpinning the health of the ESOP.”

Just as she had the support of a key mentor, Griner now takes tremendous pride in being a mentor to others. That is one of the defining aspects of leadership, she said, as well as the most rewarding part of her career journey.

Griner shared, “On 1 January of 2017, I was named the president of a Dynetics wholly owned subsidiary and later that same year, I was named a Dynetics vice president. While the titles are very nice and sometimes help open doors for strategic conversations, at this point, my proudest and most humbling moments are witnessing the accomplishments of others, especially those I’ve mentored – in FY18, five employees in my organization won annual corporate awards for engineering and business excellence, product innovation, customer service, ethics or safety which are typically only given to one employee each year.”

A mentor through-and-through, Griner also offered some inspirational words of advice to all the girls who want to be a leader in their own right one day.

“Work hard on yourself FIRST; become credible, and always keep learning. Don’t be afraid. ASK QUESTIONS,” Griner emphasized.

She named finding “good mentors and role models” as a key to success.

“Great leaders are generally good communicators,” Griner said. “Girls have a natural advantage here. From birth, girl babies spend more time studying the people that are holding them, looking into their eyes and learning their emotions. Girls see things that boys don’t see.”

She named four core components of being a strong communicator.

I. Listen, not just for a pause to talk, but for true understanding (If you are “writing your speech” while someone else talks, you are not truly listening).

II. Realize when you’re talking to others, especially leaders, that they are listening for the point, not the experience.

III. Ask questions, don’t be afraid of looking uninformed/uneducated, sometimes asking questions shows what you really do know.

IV. Breathe….. Try to think about everything from an objective perspective, not from your emotional side. Give others the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s NOT PERSONAL when they disagree with your view. Perhaps they know things you don’t.

Even though she works in a sector focused on cutting-edge technology (literally robots), Griner concluded her thoughts by stressing how crucial it is to see and understand others as the individual human beings they all are.

“Look outside yourself, if you are going to LEAD, someone has to follow. If you want people to follow you, you have to care about them and appreciate them,” Griner said. “Not just whether they do something that serves you and your bottom line, but are they fulfilled, are they healthy, do they have obstacles that you can remove to help them succeed, how can you help them grow in their career and life.”

“Say THANK YOU to your subordinates, co-workers, bosses, customers and creator. None of us do this alone. If you think you do, you are delusional,” she continued.

And, through it all, “BE OPTIMISTIC,” she concluded.

That she has certainly been, and the results are there for all to see.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Cindy Griner a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

5 hours ago

ALGOP chair Lathan: Doug Jones, Biden ‘two of a kind’

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan has commented on Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) announcing his support for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Thursday, with Lathan saying, “Both support bigger government, ObamaCare and abortion.”

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In a statement, she said, “Senator Jones and Vice President Biden are ‘two of a kind’. Both support bigger government, ObamaCare and abortion – all issues the majority of Alabamians oppose.”

“The endorsement is really no surprise coming on the heels of the Senator’s interview yesterday with the liberal Mother Jones podcast,” Lathan added.

Read more about that interview here, which Lathan continued to discuss.

“Senator Jones clearly sidesteps the sexual harassment allegations against the former Vice President saying people should ‘not be so judgemental’. This coming from the man who refused to vote for Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice because of unproven allegations against him,” Lathan remarked.

She concluded, “As long as the Democrats embrace their liberal propaganda and platform, Alabama will continue to reject their candidates. It’s just not Alabama.”

Jones is up for re-election in 2020.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville are the only announced Republican candidates against Jones thus far.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Watch live: Alabama Senate debates clean lottery bill

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate is set to debate and consider State Sen. Greg Albritton’s lottery bill, SB 220, on Thursday.

The bill was favorably recommended on a 6-5 vote by the Senate Tourism Committee on Tuesday.

Watch the debate live:

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Ahead of the Senate gaveling in for the day, Albritton spoke with reporters outside of the chamber.

He explained his bill would be alone on a one-bill special order calendar on the day, even though there is a back-up special order calendar if something unexpected occurs.

Albritton said he was unsure if he has enough votes to pass SB 220 on Thursday, saying, “I’m optimistic but it is certainly not in the bag.”

The sponsor expects “heated, open debate” on the floor.

Albritton also decried the “regionalism” that occurs when trying to make statewide gaming changes in Alabama, due to previous “piecemeal” approaches with certain counties and types of gaming.

“When you start getting into video gambling, there’s still a lot we don’t understand,” Albritton said. He added that sports gambling will become a part of that complication, too.

Albritton advised that video gaming “opens the wound.” His legislation would not legalize any video gaming or alter any existing parimutuel gaming in the state.

“This paper lottery is a simple matter that most of us understand, comprehend, and I believe it has the greatest opportunity for passing,” he remarked. “The people of Alabama want to make the decision on this principle … most of them I believe want to have a lottery.”

Albritton concluded that attempting passage of the lottery bill in the legislature should be tougher than getting it passed in by a referendum of the people, which would occur if the legislature advances it.

“We’ve been working it but so has everyone else,” Albritton said, speaking of the opponents of the bill.

He explained that the greatest challenge to the bill is “misunderstanding” fueled by misinformation efforts by the “opposite side.” Albritton further mentioned floor amendments as a challenge to passage and keeping the legislation clean.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Poll: Ivey approval ratings unchanged by gas tax push in first quarter of 2019

According to newly released polling from Morning Consult, Gov. Kay Ivey’s approval ratings were completely unchanged from the final quarter of 2018 through the first quarter of this year.

The new survey polled registered voters from January 1 through March 31, 2019. The margin of error was one percent.

Ivey’s signature Rebuild Alabama Act was signed into law on March 12.

Morning Consult’s polling showed that 63 percent of Alabamians approve of her job performance, while 19 percent disapprove. This currently makes her the fourth most popular governor in the nation.

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The final quarter of 2018 showed Ivey holding the same topline polling numbers.

The most recent survey breaks down to Ivey having a positive net approval with all political subgroups: 73 percent with Republicans, 8 percent with Democrats and 36 percent with independents.

Another recent poll, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, showed that 60 percent of Alabamians approved versus 28 percent who disapproved of Ivey.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn