"It is something that I'm honored to be a part of," said Lewis, an Eagles tight end and three-time Pro Bowl player from 2000-2005, who plans to show his love for the Eagles at the summitt (more below). "The NFL called and asked about it. They want to shine a bright spotlight on the Wounded Warrior Project and I am happy to do it. I'm ready to go. I've been training. It's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to it. I've had great support from my family. They know how much this means to me."
Lewis joins former Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher and former NFL linebacker Tedy Bruschi, as well as four wounded warriors who served in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Two of the soldiers have titanium legs and one is blind. All are veterans of the front line in our country's war for freedom against terrorism.
And Lewis, who went from an undrafted player who was then cut and on the streets to an All-Pro player, knows he is going to be in the company of true heroes.
"It is totally humbling to be with these guys," he said. "We in this country are able to appreciate freedom because of brave men and women who willingly risk their lives every day in the line of battle. To have an opportunity to bring awareness to this program and to these real heroes is an amazing opportunity for me."
The Wounded Warrior Project is a non-profit organization honoring and empowering injured service members. The NFL is using its considerable clout to bring attention, awareness and resources to the program. Fans who want to track Lewis and the team of climbers – named Team Hard Target – can visit BeliveInHeroes.org.
Lewis is now on his way to Newark, N.J. and will leave there and fly to Amsterdam and then to Tanzania. The climb up Mount Kilimanjaro takes place May 13-19. Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's tallest freestanding mountain and at the summit measures more than 19,000 feet.
The most difficult part of the climb comes at the 14,000-foot mark, where the team will camp for three days to acclimate their bodies and provide enough Oxygen to finish the climb. The final push begins at midnight and continues throughout the night.
At the peak, Lewis plans to plant an Eagles flag sent to him by Eagles director of media relations Derek Boyko. It would be a huge exclamation point for Lewis to make it to the top, as he did in his NFL career in Philadelphia.
As an Eagle, Lewis joined a team after he was released by St. Louis and nobody thought much of the acquisition early in the Andy Reid era. But Lewis worked hard, ran his routes perfectly, caught everything thrown to him and became one of the most productive tight ends in the league.
He played in the league at 252 pounds. Now he weighs 235-240 pounds and has trained for this moment diligently. Lewis has participating in a couple of triathlons, he has hiked and he has done a lot of road running to prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro. Of course, time is tough to come by: Lewis and his wife, Michelle, have seven children.
They'll all be waiting in Utah for Lewis to return from his journey. Lewis is likely to be a changed man, enriched physically, mentally and as a patriot of freedom representing the United States of America.
"I plan to get to the top and plant the Eagles flag and look out at something that I never imagined I would have the chance to see," said Lewis. "It's a dream come true to have this chance, to bring some attention to such an incredible cause. Hopefully it's a clear day and I can look out and see forever."