Oct. 13, 2009
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Inscribed on the eye black he wears for games and etched on the inside of his right bicep are the words “4 Brothers.” To Vanderbilt senior cornerback Myron Lewis, the words are more than just a reminder of his family, but a way of life.
The youngest of five boys, Lewis has spent his entire life looking up to his older siblings, who are all at least five years older than he, with the oldest being 36. Together, they form an unquestioned bond.
“The use of ‘4 Brothers’ is just for them because they supported me throughout my whole life, and I always looked up to them,” said the soft-spoken Lewis. “I always think about all the things that they taught me and carry it on and off the field.”
The closeness he shares with his brothers is something that was instilled in him and his brothers by their mother, Gloria Milligan.
“Growing up, if she wasn’t talking about school, she was talking about sticking together,” said Hamin Milligan, Lewis’ second-oldest sibling. “Because when everything is said and done, the only thing you really have is family. If your own family can’t look out for you, who are you going to turn to?”
The emphasis placed on family is something Lewis took to heart as a kid growing up in Ft. Lauderdale. Although he was much younger than his brothers, it didn’t keep him from trying to keep up with them in sports.
“We never excluded him from anything,” said Milligan. “It didn’t matter that he was younger because if you can play, you can play, and he could.
“He was the brother who made it the most difficult to see what sport he was going to play because every sport that we played, whether it was basketball, baseball, football or whatever, he was always the person who could pick up anything in a second. He was amazing.”
The close relationship Lewis shares with his brothers is something Vanderbilt senior linebacker Brent Trice has witnessed the past three years as Lewis’ roomnate.
“He tells me his brothers are his role models and he wants to be like them, but he also wants to be better than them,” Trice said.
Like Myron, his brothers also succeeded at many sports growing up, but when it came time to focus on one, they all chose the same route—football. Not only did his brothers all play football, but also they were all defensive backs.
“Myron was always asking questions and wanted to be around us all the time, so we knew he really looked up to us and what we did,” Hamin said. “His brothers all playing football and specifically the defensive back position also had an impact on him wanting to be a defensive back.”
So instead of looking up to famous college or NFL cornerbacks as a youth, Lewis didn’t have to look outside his family to find role models in the game he loved. All of his brothers played defensive back and two—Hanik and Hamin Milligan—played professionally. Hanik played four seasons in the NFL and Hamin played six seasons in the Arena Football League.
“Having those other brothers play football, it gave me the mentality of going out there and working hard all the time because they were always pushing me,” Lewis said.
Just as his brothers wanted to see Myron succeed on the football field, they wanted to see him have even more success off the field. But they knew the success on the field wouldn’t come if he followed the wrong path off it.
“With him being the youngest one, we were a lot more protective of some of the things that he did and the places he went,” Hamin said. “We were pretty overprotective and made sure to call him, not every minute, but just to make sure everything was going well and everything like that.”
Like Myron deciding to play football, when his brothers did something or told him to do something that would be in his best interest, he listened because he knew they were looking out for him.
The way his brothers looked out for him is something that wasn’t lost on Lewis. Since he didn’t have the same opportunity to mentor a younger sibling, he reached out into the community to work with underprivileged youth. The last two summers, he has spent time in East Nashville at the Martha O’Bryan Center.
“I just like helping young kids,” Lewis said. “A lot of these young kids don’t really have a father figure in their life. Me growing up with four older brothers and having people to look up to is something a lot of these kids don’t have. I just like working with the kids and seeing their eyes light up.”
Lewis has felt such a connection working with children that he hopes to someday make a career out of working with youth once his playing days are complete.
“I had my big brothers, and I want to be a big brother to these kids,” Lewis said. “Just hanging out with them, they have the opportunity to hang out with somebody that they look up to.”
The kids at the Martha O’Bryan Center are far from the only ones looking up to Lewis. Vanderbilt fans and teammates are also looking up to Lewis as he takes over for D.J. Moore as Vanderbilt’s shut-down corner. A preseason All-SEC selection, Lewis is considered one of the nation’s top NFL prospects at the cornerback position.
What makes Lewis unique at his position is his height. At 6-foot-2, Lewis is one of the taller cornerbacks in the country. While some may scoff at his height, Lewis makes up for it with his quickness and reach.
“Being so tall and lanky with my arms, I have a better opportunity to get my hands on the receivers than shorter defensive backs who have to use their feet more at the line of scrimmage,” Lewis said. “I’m also able to go up and attack the ball more being 6-foot-2 and having such long arms.”
His height may not be typical of a lot of cornerbacks, but it isn’t something that Head Coach Bobby Johnson is concerned with.
“I think he one of the best cornerbacks in the country,” Johnson said. “He can run, he’s got great ball skills. I think he’s really relishing the role of being the returning big-play-maker.”
In 2008, Lewis ranked second on the team with five interceptions and tied for the team lead with five sacks. It is that fifth interception that Vanderbilt fans will remember most. Playing Boston College in the Music City Bowl, Lewis stepped in front of a Boston College pass with 1:36 to play to seal Vanderbilt’s first bowl win in 53 years. The interception was sweet revenge for Lewis, who had given up a touchdown that put Boston College up 14-13.
“The interception brought a lot of excitement to the fans,” Lewis said. “I always get fans thanking me for making the interception. It was just good to have the opportunity to make a play after giving up a big play.”
Lewis has succeeded on the field, and he has done the same in the classroom. He needs just 14 more hours to graduate, which he will do this December when he completes his degree in human and organizational development in just 3 ½ years.
“To have the opportunity to graduate early is a big accomplishment,” Lewis said. “I never thought I’d be able to do it, but I was able to take the right classes and still balance football out with it.”
Seeing Lewis perform in the classroom as well as on the field is something his family is proud of.
“The whole family is very proud of him that he can sustain a strong GPA in the classroom and play football, and do exceptionally well at both,” Hamin said.
Lewis has followed the path on and off the field his brothers have wanted him to take. Now, he has his eyes on leaving his own mark.
“I’m trying to follow in their footsteps, but do a little bit more,” Lewis said. “They are good and I’m trying to be great.”
With his smarts, size, speed and athleticism, Lewis has an opportunity to have a long career at the next level. That opportunity could take him anywhere across the country. But no matter where he ends up, his “4 Brothers” won’t be far from his mind.