On Friday night, Baltimore Brigade kicker Mark Lewis’ foot sent a football 23 yards for a field goal, setting a final score, 53-41, that would advance the team to its first ArenaBowl 56 seconds later.
On Tuesday, the Arena Football League named Lewis the league’s Kicker of the Year, becoming only the fifth kicker to have won the award twice.
In his inaugural season with the Brigade, Lewis led the league in field goals made (five), attempted (six) and percentage (.830), and shared the lead in extra points converted (78), attempted (83) and percentage (.940).
Even though the honor was decided on regular-season statistics, Lewis’ postseason performance was nothing to scoff at. The 39-year-old AFL veteran led the league in extra points (13-for-14) and field goals (1-for-2) in the Brigade’s two playoff games.
It’s the kind of accolades one would expect from a lifetime kicker — but football was not Lewis’ high school sweetheart.
He was a soccer standout at Lyman High in Longwood, Fla., and even though he reportedly received interest from Florida, Notre Dame and Penn State football programs, he left his helmet behind. Lewis carried his skills on the pitch to Florida International on a scholarship before transferring to UNC Charlotte, and then he quit soccer altogether.
After college, inspiration struck when Lewis watched Orlando Predators kicker David Cool launch a game-winning field goal to clinch the 2000 ArenaBowl title over the Nashville Kats, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
His return to football began with the Tennessee Valley Vipers of the af2, the AFL’s minor league, in 2003 before working his way to the Detroit Fury a year later. In his 14 seasons, Lewis played for a new team almost every year until spending six seasons with the Predators (2011-2016). He played one season for the Tampa Bay Storm before joining the Brigade this year.
Lewis earned his first AFL Kicker of the Year honor in 2007, with the Austin Wranglers, as well as first-team All-Arena honors.
Lewis and the Brigade will take on the Washington Valor in ArenaBowl XXXI at 7 p.m. Saturday at Royal Farms Arena.