Sooners’ Lewis under control but still a big troublemaker
Former ‘bad little kid’ now causes havoc only on the field
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.”
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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.”
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.