Olympian and Cougar great Carl Lewis has joined the University of Houston's track and field program as a volunteer coach.
"Carl had indicated to me last spring that he was planning on moving back to Houston," Burrell said. "That was an excellent opportunity for us to really sit down and give him a more active role with the program."
Lewis joins a staff of eight former Houston track and field alumni and will work with the sprinters and jumpers.
"When you think of track and field, several athletes come to mind, one being Carl Lewis." Burrell said. "To have that type of name recognition and excellence associated with the program only enhances the training environment, credibility with our athletes and marketability with our recruits."
For the past 14 years, Lewis has been back and forth from Philadelphia to Houston to be a part of the program. He is excited to join the staff and believes in coach Burrell's philosophy. Lewis also brings a quality to the staff that is unlike any other.
"Leroy set up a great program and I have a different perspective. I haven't seen a lot of the kids everyday so I can look at them objectively. With the emotional side, I can give them a different perspective on how to prepare for competition. I know how to win in a lot of these events. Adding another eye and ear to one of the best technical programs in the nation is great for me and I hope is good for them."
Lewis is proud to return to his alma mater, a place that he believes helped him succeed. He hopes to bring that same quality to the future of Houston track and field. "I tell people all the time that if I didn't go here, you wouldn't know me," Lewis said. "I was a kid who was very good in high school, one of the best recruits from New Jersey, but there's no way I would have progressed without the University of Houston, the coaching staff, Coach Tellez and all of them, but then not only that, Coach Yeoman, Coach Lewis, Coach Williams, Athletic Director Harry Fouke and the Cullen family.
It was a village for me to be successful, and that's what the University of Houston is all about. We're not pretentious in the sense that we are this or that. We're the University of Houston, always being told we're less but always doing more."
Lewis is known as one of the greatest athletes in the world winning 10 Olympic medals, nine of those gold, and 10 world championship medals. He still holds the school records for the indoor 55-meter dash (6.07) and both indoor and outdoor long jump records 8.56m (28'-1") and 8.62m (28'-3.5"). A six-time All-American, Lewis won six national championships and nine individual conference championships during his two seasons at Houston.
Lewis came to Houston to run for head coach Tom Tellez in 1979. A year later, he appeared on the national scene when he qualified for the United States team for the 1980 Olympics in the long jump and 4x100 relay team. Since then, he competed in four Olympic Games as a member of team USA.
He held the world record in the men's 100-meter dash in 1991, until Burrell broke the record in 1994. The two were also a part of the US 4x100 relay team that broke the world record during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Carl Lewis' achievements are unprecedented in track and field: He is one of two athletes to win nine Olympic gold medals. Similarly, he is one of two to win four golds in the same event. He also won 10 medals, including eight golds, at the World Outdoor Championships, the most by any athlete in the world. Growing up in Willingboro, N.J., Lewis came from an athletic family, and yet he blossomed late in his high school career.
The following year, as a freshman at the University of Houston, he qualified for the Olympic team in the long jump. Because of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics, Lewis had to wait four years for his Olympic glory.
By 1984, he had already ranked number one in the world in both the 100 meters and long jump for three consecutive years. In Los Angeles, he matched Jesse Owens' 1936 feat with four gold medals in the same events -- the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay. Lewis' talent was matched by his longevity. At the 1988 Olympics, he won the 100 meters and long jump. In 1992, he again won the long jump as well as the 4x100m, anchoring the U.S. team to a world record of 37.40.
In 1996, in his final Olympics, Lewis had a dramatic farewell, winning his fourth-consecutive gold medal in the long jump. At age 30, he had one of his greatest achievements, breaking the world 100m record with a time of 9.86 while winning the event at the 1991 World Championships. At that same meet, he had one of his greatest disappointments, losing his long jump streak of 65 consecutive victories to Mike Powell. It was an occasion on which Lewis recorded his longest jump ever -- 29' 1 1/4" -- while Powell was breaking Bob Beamon's legendary record with a jump of 29' 4 1/2".