Carl Lewis has always been a dreamer.
Lewis, a 10-time Olympic medalist and track legend, chose UH because then-coach Tom Tellez sold him on a vision of the future. Tellez told Lewis he could break world records and compete at the Olympics if he competed for the Cougars.
It took some time, but Tellez’ vision became a reality.
“It was one of those things where you heard something where you didn’t (even) know you wanted to hear it,” Lewis said.
Now he has an opportunity to provide the same lessons to UH athletes who hope to become professionals.
After serving as a volunteer coach for a year, Lewis was announced as a full-time assistant at a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 2.
He will coach sprinters and jumpers on head coach Leroy Burrell’s staff while also assisting in recruiting. Lewis was limited in how much he could help in recruiting as a volunteer.
“Carl just brings an instant credibility that I think is unlike any other place. And I think it should be that way because the University of Houston is unique and our program has been unique,” Burrell said.
“We’ve had a lot of success, but our goal is to be a powerhouse. That’s what the University expects from us so I felt like this is a natural way for us to make that move.”
Though he initially eschewed coaching opportunities after retiring, Lewis has been preparing for this moment for a while.
He attended massage therapy school so he could understand bodies and movement better and contacted his former college coach to learn the intricacies of the profession.
Lewis, who has 10 world championships and was a six-time All American at UH, didn’t want to become the stereotypical former athlete who gets a job based on their history.
“This past year I learned a lot about what I was doing in dealing with the staff. And all these years, even though I wasn’t thinking that I was going to coach, I’ve been kind of preparing for it, because Coach Tellez and I talk all the time about coaching,” Lewis said.
“It’s really about me saying I want to be the best coach that I can be, and I’m going to continue to learn.”
For assistant coach Kyle Tellez, the experience of working with Lewis has come full circle. Lewis is five years older, but Kyle Tellez got a close view of Lewis’ work habits as a college athlete while his dad served as head coach.
Though Kyle Tellez and Lewis had drastically different track careers, he said both have a different perspective that helps the athletes.
“I don’t know what it’s like to win an Olympic medal, but Carl does,” Tellez said. “I have the background of mechanics like my dad did and technique and Carl brings the element of this is what it takes to be an Olympic champion. So the two of us together I think is a good blend for the athletes.”