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Former NFL cornerback Albert Lewis finds new challenge at Centreville ranch
CENTREVILLE, Miss. - What does a man do to keep his competitive edge after trying to stop the likes of John Elway and Joe Montana for 16 years in the National Football League?
For Albert Lewis, the answer was easy.
"I've always had horses. I was blessed. Some people do things to live. This is what I live to do," said Lewis, who retired from the NFL in 1998 and bought Greystone, a 320-acre ranch north in Centreville, a year later.
Lewis, a 43 year-old native of Mansfield, La., who played at Grambling under Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson, found Greystone through a former college roommate and ex-NFL receiver, Trumaine Johnson.
"I came down here for a business deal and only planned to stay a week or two. I've been here three years now," he said.
Though the father of three is very proud of his days in the NFL - his living room at Greystone is filled with memorabilia from his career - he has no regrets about the timing of his retirement from football.
"I don't miss it. Once you've used up your football energy, you just know when it's the right time," he said.
The former cornerback played 11 years with the Kansas City Chiefs and five seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
"My first game back at Kansas City as a Raider the crowd gave me a standing ovation," he said.
Understandably, players long for new challenges after professional sports careers, and the excitement of breeding and training race horses was a natural fit for Lewis.
"It's a line of communication created between you and the animals. And it's a lot like the (NFL) draft. You don't know if your choice is going to pan out," he said.
Though he hopes to begin racing thoroughbreds this fall, Lewis has already raced quarterhorses - mostly at tracks in Louisiana, where the gaming industry supports larger purses.
"The quarterhorses require lower maintenance and less training. It gives you a chance to learn the game. But we've had quite a bit of success for only three years. It takes some people 20 years to find a winner," he said.
Lewis, who works out regularly, has learned that working with horses can get physical, too.
Since taking over at Greystone, he has twisted a knee and been kicked in the face, suffering three broken bones around his eye and cheek.
"You definitely have to be aware. The horse may just be playing, but you can get hurt very easily," he said.
Injuries aside, Lewis is clearly dedicated to succeeding in the horse racing industry.
"I'm all about winning. My goal is to raise a world champion right here at Greystone. If I can come from the little town of Mansfield and make it in the NFL, then I can raise a world champion horse," he said.
Noting that the racing industry created 80,000 jobs in Florida, Lewis hopes that Greystone can help lead a similar boom here.
"You have to want the community to grow as you do. It could put Centreville on the map - maybe even the state. Mississippi's natural beauty is one of its best kept secrets," he said.
Meanwhile, Lewis continues to apply the lessons he learned in the NFL to life.
"Every process I use, I've been taught by football. But athletes should remain humble. The game will always do more for you than you can do for the game," he said.