Bears linebacker donates workout equipment to TTHS
July 27, 2004
When Truckee resident Gary Lewis met Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher a few years ago at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in South Lake Tahoe, Lewis had no idea the encounter would lead to a miraculous contribution to Tahoe Truckee High School athletics.
In sparking a friendship with the four-time NFL Pro Bowler, one topic of conversation was Urlacher’s interest in choosing a location in the Tahoe area for a summer stint of high altitude training. In a phone conversation some time later, Lewis suggested his hometown of Truckee, so Urlacher sent his personal trainer Chip Smith to scout a number of small towns and their accompanying high schools.
During a four-day tour of the Tahoe-Truckee area, Smith met with Lewis and Bob Shaffer, Truckee High School athletic director and head football coach. It was confirmed that starting on June 19, Truckee (elevation near 6000′) would be the place that Urlacher would test his physical limits for a month in preparation for Bears training camp, which opened July 27. Lewis accommodated Urlacher and Smith with a house on the lake in Tahoe City, but Urlacher was about to demonstrate his own generosity.
In order to maximize his workout, Urlacher wanted the high-tech modern equipment he was accustomed to, so he had his sponsor Hammer Strength deliver about 20 pieces of workout equipment worth over $50,000 to Sierra Mountain Middle School (since the high school is currently under construction) in Truckee.
“He saw the equipment (Truckee High) had, which is fine,” Lewis said, “but he could see it was old and worn out. There were three trucks and about six guys unloading it and putting it together. He really wanted this to be low-key, and it has been.”
By trading out $50,000 of his time to do two commercials for Hammer Strength, Urlacher seized an opportunity to help out a high school that otherwise couldn’t afford anything to this magnitude.
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“It was a pretty easy deal,” said Urlacher, 26, going into his fifth year in the NFL. “Hopefully I’ll be able to keep coming back every year and keep using this equipment.”
Lewis, whose sons Cameron (senior) and Kellen (junior) are on the Truckee varsity football team, discussed the importance of Urlacher’s donation.
“All the kids, not just the football team, are going to benefit from this,” he said. “This equipment will last; there’s kids that aren’t born that will be using this equipment. Instead of coming in and seeing hacked up, old, taped stuff, this stuff is brand new. It’s hard enough to motivate yourself to get in shape, but when you see brand new stuff, that’s a kicker. It’s like getting in a ’63 Volkswagen bug that’s rusted up or getting into a Ferrari.”
Lewis was also there to witness the reaction of Shaffer and his players as they were introduced to the scene of the little Sierra Mountain basketball court transformed into a small, modernized weightlifting gym.
“They were speechless,” Lewis said. “There was some emotion too, (as if they were thinking) ‘We’re this middle of nowhere place, and look what we’ve got.’ This stuff is on par or better than what University of Nevada’s got.”
Shaffer talked about it as if Urlacher was old St. Nick himself.
“(It’s like) when you go down and look under that tree and you got all those new toys there,” said the Truckee football coach of over a decade. “It’s the best equipment money can buy. Hopefully we’ll abuse it.”
The gift comes at a pivotal time for Truckee athletics, which has been devastated by budget cuts the last few years. As the athletic director, Shaffer knows how much equipment the school could have afforded to buy out of its own budget.
“Nothing,” he answered. “All the equipment that we’ve bought we’ve gone to the community. Thank god for the community we live in because without them and their donations it would be really hard for us to have the equipment we do have.”
Shaffer said the new equipment will have to be moved back to the high school as soon as the current construction is complete.
Urlacher’s generosity to high school athletics is nothing new. A few years ago, Urlacher donated 40 pieces of Hammer Strength equipment to his high school alma mater in Lovington, N.M.
“He’s not only a quality athlete, but he’s a quality human being,” Lewis said. “The students are fortunate enough to be a benefactor of his kindness. There is none better than Brian Urlacher.”
Shaffer expressed his appreciation for Urlacher as well: “He was everything that I had heard about and then some. The only time he asked me anything was ‘Is everything OK?’ or ‘Should I have gotten something different?’ I was just happy that I got anything.”
Urlacher departed from the Reno-Tahoe Airport on Thursday, July 22.
Shaffer did a good job convincing his players to let Urlacher train unbothered.
“I expected to see them up here, but I guess coach had given them a little advice to stay away while I was working out, which is cool,” Urlacher said.
Smith also appreciated the lack of attention and the graciousness afforded to him by everyone involved.
“Nobody’s bothered us, and it’s just been a great environment for him to focus on him,” he said. “Brian and I have been treated like family and royalty up here.”