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Jourdan Lewis wins Ed Block Courage Award for resilient return from foot injury


FRISCO, Texas – Every year towards the end of the regular season, one player from each NFL team is selected for the annual Ed Block Courage Award. Voted on by his teammates, the player usually has returned from a significant injury, either the year before or earlier in the season.

Jourdan Lewis was the Cowboys' winner for the award this year, announced earlier this week. But there has been nothing usual or routine about his return to the football field after missing most of last season with a gruesome foot injury.

For Lewis, winning the award is a big honor, but he's more appreciative that it comes from his teammates, who have seen just how long of a journey it has been for him to get back to this point.

"My teammates appreciate how I came back," Lewis said. "They appreciate my hard work and the guy that I am. It's an amazing honor. I really appreciate being named the Ed Block Courage Award winner, but I love that my teammates keep me at a high regard."

And the Cowboys' athletic trainers have the same view. Jim Maurer has been the team's head athletic trainer for the last 28 years and said one of his highlights of the profession is to reward players like Lewis for their resilience, with the Ed Block Courage Award, which was established in 1984.

"It's so special because there are usually several players who have overcome a lot of stuff, but to recognize one of them for exceptional effort and overcoming their obstacles is why I got into the business. It's why athletic trainers do what they do," said Maurer, who has been with the Cowboys for 34 seasons overall. "Jourdan has always been one of, if not the hardest worker since he got here. Watching him, year after year, beat out the competition is fun to watch.

"Unfortunately, he suffered what we in the athletic training world would consider a very significant, even career-threating injury. To see him work his same diligent self to overcome such a big injury, to not only get back to the field but to play at such a high level, is very rewarding from of our aspect in the training room."

Another longtime member of that training room is Britt Brown, who has 32 years of experience as an athletic trainer and 28 with the Cowboys. He's the director of rehabilitation for the team and describes Lewis' injury and his journey to get back on his feet as an unusual circumstance.

"There was doubt from the beginning that he would ever play again," Brown said. "This was not a normal foot injury. This was like a car crash, where you crush your foot and it's never the same. Because of his work ethic and how Jourdan's wired, he never believed that and thought he would come back and play no matter what, which he's done."

He initially suffered the injury against the Detroit Lions in the middle of the 2022 schedule. That landed him a spot on injured reserve, and he was out for the rest of the season.

But Lewis' foot injury included displaced bones and ligament damage, which required screws and bolts to stabilize the foot and had him in a walking boot for most of the spring.

Even with the uphill battle in front of him, Lewis said he never doubted he would come back.

"No doubt I'd be back. At least not in my mind or in Britt's mind," Lewis said. "If he did, he never showed any doubt that I wouldn't be back on the field. It was definitely encouraging to see. He never lost faith in me getting back on the field."

Lewis said a hamstring injury during his rookie season back in 2017 was the first time he rehabbed with Brown, and he said they developed a bond and respect with one another that helped in this process as well.

"He's a pit bull. He never backed down from it," Lewis said of Brown. "He knew it was going to be a long process. He cherished every single minute with me. He definitely was a guy that helped me on this journey, and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him."

Lewis missed all of the preseason games and the first regular-season game but has played in 15 games this year. That has been a huge bonus for the Cowboys, who lost All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs to a season-ending ACL injury after just two games.

For Lewis, he eventually returned to form, capped off by a superb game this past weekend, getting his first interception of the season in the Cowboys' 20-19 win over, yes, the Lions – not only the team he was playing against when he suffered the injury, but the one he grew up watching as a native of Detroit and as a former Michigan Wolverine.

But as the Cowboys head into Sunday's regular-season finale against Washington, Lewis still won't say he's at full strength, but he's certainly well enough to be a difference-maker.

"I wouldn't say I'm back to 100, but I understand how to manage my foot and what helps me perform better," Lewis said. "Just getting my rehab in and keeping with my diet and making sure I can perform at my best. I'm just in a better routine than I was earlier in the season. Just in a better place right now. I'm just glad I'm able to get out there and contribute to the team."

For the guys in the training room – not just Maurer and Brown but the entire staff, including Greg Gaither and Hanson Yang – they not only appreciate Lewis' desire to return for himself and his career, but also his commitment to a full locker room of players who are counting on him.

"It's always satisfaction for us when a guy comes back. This one is special because the guy is so special," Brown said. "Jourdan is a team guy. He's all about the team. He's always trying to do what's right for the team and do what's right on game day to help the team and make a play. For him to come back and play what I believe is the toughest position in pro football to the level that he's playing, the award is great, but it's probably not even the reality of what he's done."

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