Fan since 1999, William Lewis provides spark at Cougar games
By Gary Lloyd
William Lewis scans the empty bleachers at Clay-Chalkville High School’s gym, looking for someone he knows, but no one is there.
The Class 6A Northeast sub-regional basketball game between the Cougars and Grissom on Feb. 15 is what he’s there for, and tipoff is at 7 p.m. Lewis, as always, is on the front row of the home bleachers at 5:30 p.m., before Grissom’s players have even arrived, before Clay-Chalkville head coach Daniel Foy has put on his tie for the game.
Fans begin to file in. Lewis hikes from seat to seat, saying hello. Students begin to file in. He does the same
“Everybody kind of knows me,” Lewis says.
Lewis has been a Clay-Chalkville fan since the beginning of the 1999 football season, a season in which the Cougars rattled off seven straight wins to end the season, winning its only state championship.
“I was hooked,” says Lewis, a building services worker for the city of Birmingham for the last 22 years.
Lewis, 42, has been going to Clay-Chalkville sporting events ever since, even attending recreational league games and band concerts. He hasn’t missed one of Clay-Chalkville’s 167 football games since that 1999 season.
“I make it a point to go to every Cougar event,” says Lewis, a Grayson Valley resident.
It’s now Feb. 23, and the Clay-Chalkville baseball team is hosting Paul Bryant in the first of a doubleheader. It’s nearing the 1 p.m. game time, and Lewis still hasn’t arrived to take his usual spot just left of the middle section of bleachers, where he always sits in his navy blue Academy Sports and Outdoors outdoor armchair, the closest color he could find to match the Cougars’ team colors.
Lewis drives up in his silver Honda Fit around 12:35 p.m., but he doesn’t immediately walk across the Clay Elementary School parking lot to the stadium. He sits in his car, engine idling, radio up loud. He’s glued to the radio because Feb. 23 is the day the Nationwide race series has begun, and the race is at Daytona. He loves stock car racing.
Lewis finally heads toward the field and sets up his chair. He has a black frame in hand, and he’s showing it off to anyone and everyone in the Clay-Chalkville bleachers. Fans smile wide when they look at it, and Lewis smiles wider. It’s an appreciation award from the Clay-Chalkville football program, recognizing Lewis as “Super Fan,” which he’s affectionately known as in Clay. Lewis started the Cougar spell-out and leading cheers at football games in 2012, and he received the award at the football team’s 2012 season banquet.
“I think it’s pretty special that somebody is dedicated enough to come to things you have,” says Cougars head football coach Jerry Hood.
The game against Paul Bryant is now under way, but Lewis isn’t watching senior pitcher Jordan Rutter throw smoke. He’s fumbling with Duracell batteries in a Sony radio. Lewis is also a huge Alabama fan who has football season tickets, and the Crimson Tide is facing LSU in a pivotal SEC basketball game. He listens to Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink call the game from Baton Rouge, La., as he watches Clay-Chalkville close out Paul Bryant in five innings, 14-1.
Lewis was one of the first people to greet head baseball coach Brandon Johnson seven years ago when he was hired to coach the Clay-Chalkville baseball team. Johnson says players have become so accustomed to Lewis attending games that they’d be confused if he wasn’t in his normal spot behind home plate.
“The only way he’s going to miss a sporting event is because there’s another sporting event going on at the same time,” Johnson says. “He’s a true fan, win or lose. He’s fun to have around. He really enjoys it.”
After the 2012 baseball season, Lewis wrote a letter to the team’s seniors, the winningest group in program history, and read it aloud at the team banquet. He told the seniors he loved them, thanked them for all they did for Clay-Chalkville and wished them luck in the future.
Expressing his feelings to the players and coaches of every Clay-Chalkville sport, and being on the front row of the bleachers is “very important” to Lewis, he says. He says if the Alabama football team was to play in the SEC Championship Game the same day Clay-Chalkville was vying for a state title, he’d be on the front row, cheering for the Cougars.
“I just love it,” he says.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.