AUBURN, AL (WXTX) - Lewis Colbert, an Auburn punter from 1982-85, became one of the stars of the team and a first team All-American. He would go on to play in the NFL.
What many didn't know about their All-American player was that those records were set and games were won with a severely disfigured foot.
Colbert was born with a clubbed foot and with a 10% chance of ever being able to walk. He was rejected by his father since the day he was born. Colbert's father died 5 years later leaving his mother working two jobs and himself alone most of the time. But the emotional scars are just half of the battle Colbert fought every day.
"I was born with a severe handicap. My leg actually stopped at the ankle. My foot was rotated 90 degrees. It was folded in half and then it was folded again against the back of my shin," says Colbert.
His foot had to be broken in three places and he had four major operations in the first five years of his life. His early life was filled with pain, casts and leg braces.
"I remember trying to walk the first time and it was so painful because even today from the knee down my leg is half the size of my left foot and my foot is still turned. I walk on the side of it."
Which is what makes his quote, "The Unlikeliest Auburn Tiger" the title of his book.
Barely making enough money for tuition for Auburn, Colbert walked into the auditorium for orientation, took a seat and looked in awe at the plethora of incoming students. That's the moment before his life would take a turn for the better.
"This lady that was running the orientation asked if there was a Lewis Colbert in there. I walked down to the front she had a note for me and I'm walking back to my seat I start opening up that note, I looked at it and I stopped and I just, 'wow'. It said Coach Dye wanted to see me."
That day Auburn's new coach Pat Dye offered him a spot to walk on to Auburn's football team. He would be one of 17 punters.
"By spring I was second string. A-Day game the first string punter punted the football low, it was returned, he had to make a tackle and he broke his ankle. Now how ironic is that."
Suddenly the boy who punted for only one season at Glennwood High School in Phenix City was the star punter for Auburn.
Shortly after seeing Colbert practice, fight adversity, and punt with the foot that he thought had ruined his life, Coach Dye called him into his office.
"Never came across my mind but that day he offered me a scholarship and that day changed my life forever."
He could now afford to stay at Auburn University
"My ankle doesn't move like everybody else's. The flexibility in it, the range of motion is probably half of a normal ankle which is also amazing about me being able to punt a football because I can't depress my ankle all the way."
But something was right with that foot that led Colbert to several records. He averaged 45 yards a punt. Some of his records have yet to be broken and took the Tigers to victory.
Coach Dye said Colbert's toughness, determination and will power made him an inspiration to all. Colbert would be named Team Captain in 1985.
"There's a lot of things that happen out there. It's how you deal with them that makes a difference. I'm not the only person with challenges. I tried to be as good as I could be to help our team win. "
Colbert began to see the benefits, and successes, of staying positive and believing you can beat anything.
Coach Pat Dye became the father Colbert never had.
"He guided those young men into grown men with responsibility. He taught us how to do things right for the right reasons."
There are a number of lessons Coach Dye instilled in Colbert but the one that he thinks about every day is a saying at first he didn't quite understand, "Keep Choppin' that Wood."
"Being determined, having perseverance. Not giving up. You continue to stay after it and stay after it."
Not just on a sports team, but in every single thing you do "Keep Choppin' That Wood."
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