Marjorie Herrera Lewis is definitely a pioneer in Texas women’s sports.
Lewis, who recently spoke at a Rotary Club meeting in Greenville and at the Hump Day Happy Hour at the Texan Theater, has achieved a couple of “firsts” in Texas football and has chronicled another Texas football female pioneer.
Lewis, who grew up in Santa Fe. N.M., graduated from Arizona State before she headed to Texas to work in broadcasting and print journalism. She wrote for several small Texas newspapers before joining the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1984 and then becoming the first female beat writer to cover the Dallas Cowboys. Being a beat writer for any National Football League team is a very demanding job but you can probably double the pressure and expectations on the writer when it comes to the Cowboys: America’s Team.
Lewis switched to The Dallas Morning News in 1989 and helped cover the Cowboys and professional tennis before slowing the pace to go part-time while raising a family. She covered college football for the Morning News, including the Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions.
I sat next to Lewis in the press box during many of the Lions’ games at Memorial Stadium. She’s very knowledgeable has a great sense of humor.
I really enjoyed being a panelist on stage next to Lewis at the Texan Theater. It was like old times at Memorial Stadium.
But Lewis has done more than just write about pro and college football. She achieved another first as the first female to coach football at Texas Wesleyan, which launched its first college football team in 2017. Lewis coached the defensive backs as an assistant coach.
Lewis’ knowledge gained as a sports writer and coach helped her write a historic novel about Tylene Wilson, who was the first Texas woman to serve as a head football coach of a Texas college. Wilson coached Daniel Baker College (later absorbed by Howard Payne) in 1942 after the team’s male coaches went off to serve in World War II.
Lewis originally planned to write a non-fiction book about Wilson but after finding few details about Wilson chose instead to write a historical novel about her coaching the Brownwood High School Lions in 1944. Lewis’ book called “When the Men Were Gone” has been well-received. “Sports Illustrated” called it the best sports novel of 2018.
Lewis picked a great location for her novel. Brownwood won seven state football titles under Texas Sports Hall of Fame coach Gordon Wood and is also the hometown of Jim Morris, who was featured in the film “The Rookie” starring Dennis Quaid. Morris played on a state football championship team at Brownwood and was an all-state punter at Angelo State before his Big Lake baseball players encouraged their hard-throwing head coach to try out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Tampa Bay signed the 35-year-old Morris after he threw 12 straight pitches clocked at 98 mph.
Lewis said she has sold the rights to her book to a movie company and would like to see actress Amy Adams play Wilson. It should be an interesting movie.
I know Stephen A. Smith likes to stir up controversy when he appears on ESPN First Take, but did he have to call boxer Andy Ruiz, Jr. “Butterbean” after he knocked out heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in a big upset? Sure Ruiz isn’t the sveltest fighter but he showed his toughness in the third round when he bounced up from a knockdown to knock down Joshua twice in the same round. That third is one of the most exciting rounds of boxing I’ve seen in a long time.
Butterbean wasn’t slender either but he could hit hard. When it comes to heavyweights, how hard the boxer punches is more important than their waistline.
David Claybourn is sports editor of the Herald-Banner.