Sooners’ Lewis un­der con­trol but still a big trou­ble­maker

For­mer ‘bad lit­tle kid’ now causes havoc only on the field

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Alan Trubow

In a five-minute span Wed­nes­day, Ok­la­homa linebacker Travis Lewis said he liked his steak moist, called his hair­cut per­fec­tion, de­scribed his per­son­al­ity as a lit­tle crazy and la­beled team­mate Tom Wort’s red Mo­hawk a lit­tle ‘You know what’.

With Lewis, that could have meant a lot of things.

Out­spo­ken, brazen and en­ter­tain­ing, Lewis draws at­ten­tion when he walks in a room. He bleeds in­ter­est­ing. He al­ways has. But it took the two-time All-Big 12 se­lec­tion a long time to fig­ure out how to bal­ance his unique charisma with a pos­i­tive work ethic.

Grow­ing up, his im­pulses were a bur­den in­stead of a bless­ing, and his mouth was known for some­thing other than talk­ing.

“It was a bad sit­u­a­tion,” said Lewis, who starred at San An­to­nio Lee. “I was a bad kid. In ele­men­tary school, I bit the prin­ci­pal. I was one of those bad kids that you see on TV. I was prob­a­bly around first or sec­ond grade.”

Con­tin­ued from C

Worse yet, Lewis was smart enough to un­der­stand what he was do­ing. He chose mis­chief.

“I got in a lot of trou­ble … a lot. I failed sec­ond grade be­cause I was a bad kid. They held me back be­cause of my be­hav­ior.” Lewis said, “but I turned it around. I didn’t turn it around un­til mid­dle school. I made a de­ci­sion.”

“And now I’m a good boy,” he added with a smile.

Lewis changed, he said, when he re­al­ized the in­flu­ence he had over oth­ers, specif­i­cally the three broth­ers and three sis­ters sur­round­ing him.

“I didn’t want my younger broth­ers to be like me,” Lewis said in a qui­eter and more se­ri­ous tone. ‘The cel­e­bra­tion rule. There’s so much ex­cite­ment that goes into the game. It’s a showman’s busi­ness. There’s a lot of ex­cite­ment to it. If you take that away from the game, then what would we be play­ing?’ — ok­la­homa re­ceiver ryan broyles

“I didn’t want them to do what I did. That’s why I never got into drugs or al­co­hol. My mom was work­ing two jobs, and she couldn’t be around and ‘The ban on touch­down dances. They’re just fun to watch on TV. If I scored a touch­down, I’d prob­a­bly just faint, I’d be so ex­cited.’ — texas de­fen­sive tackle khee­ston randall ‘I’d like to see the trans­fer rule changed to where play­ers wouldn’t have to sit out a year.’ — kansas of­fen­sive tackle brad thor­son, a trans­fer from Wis­con­sin do it all rais­ing seven kids by her­self.”

So the mid­dle child be­came more than an en­ter­tainer and a mis­chievous at­ten­tion-seeker. He be­came a leader of Team Lewis. That qual­ity has con­tin­ued to­day.

Still out­spo­ken and the cen­ter of at­ten­tion, Lewis has per­fected the play hard, work harder men­tal­ity.

The ju­nior has turned that ap­proach into two con­sec­u­tive 100-plus-tackle sea­sons. He’s also one of the play­ers whom team­mates look to for guid­ance.

“He’s en­ter­tain­ing,” Ok­la­homa coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s a great com­peti­tor, though. It’s one thing to be en­ter­tain­ing with­out be­ing a great com­peti­tor. I’m not much for that. He’s what you want and how he works and his tough­ness and at­ti­tude in play­ing and tak­ing it se­ri­ously, but he also, when it’s time for some­body to chuckle, he’s quick to do it.”

Lewis said he had to mas­ter the on-off switch.

He wore a white jump­suit (planned) to the postgame news con­fer­ence af­ter the Sooners’ spring game, which his white team won 23-0.

He of­ten wres­tles with OU de­fen­sive end Jeremy Beal, who calls Lewis, “Crazy, but not the bad crazy.”

Even on the field he’s known as Travis “trash talk” Lewis.

So why, be­sides his 249 ca­reer tack­les, 4.5 sacks and five in­ter­cep­tions, do his team­mates look up to and of­ten em­u­late Lewis.

“I think it’s be­cause I flip the switch,” said Lewis, who said the OU lineback­ers and quar­ter­backs are the two hard­est­work­ing units on the team.

“As loud as I am and as much fun as I have most the time, I know when it’s time to work. You don’t hear me talk­ing when we’re watch­ing film. You don’t see me goof­ing off when we’re prac­tic­ing.

“And if I can’t goof off, you can be sure I’m not go­ing to let any­body else do it.”

The tal­ent and lead­er­ship is why ev­ery­body ex­pects the Sooner lineback­ers to be among the best in the coun­try in 2010.

As for Lewis, he’s just try­ing to play like a kid with­out act­ing like he did when he was a kid.

“Now I get to hit peo­ple, and it’s a con­struc­tive way to deal with my emo­tions,” Lewis said with a laugh. “No bit­ing, though. That’s for guys like (Mike) Tyson.”

Paul Mose­ley

Ok­la­homa linebacker Travis Lewis, from San An­to­nio Lee, says he made ma­jor be­hav­ioral changes in mid­dle school be­cause he didn’t want to have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on his sib­lings.

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