Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Sooners' Lewis plans to play loud
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
The talk began as soon as the teams were divided. Travis Lewis promised a shutout for his team in Oklahoma's spring game. Give the linebacker three points and you guaranteed yourself a win, he told his offense -- and anyone else who would listen.
Travis Lewis can back up his talk off the field with his play on it.
Lewis backed up his talk on a rainy spring Saturday, leading the White team to a 23-0 win, but he saved his most talked-about performance for the postgame.
The junior strolled into the interview room with a backward white hat, a white shirt, white pants and white shoes. He also wore a wide smile underneath a big pair of dark sunglasses that glared across the room at the losing Red team. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was one of the first to get a look at his defense's new leader.
"Coach V loved it, he broke out laughing, he went crazy.
"Coach [Bob] Stoops was in there, and his face lit up," Lewis said. "But the main reaction I got was, 'Is this guy serious?'"
Lewis plans to tone it down -- at least off the field -- once his opponents aren't also his teammates. But with Gerald McCoy gone to the NFL, Lewis plans on being a new, even more animated mouthpiece for the Sooner defense.
"I might bring out the shades after a win -- a big win, I’ll definitely bring out the shades and have that swag out there," Lewis said. "Definitely if we beat Texas, you will definitely see the glasses."
Lewis has backed up his talk in his two years at Oklahoma. A 6-foot-2, 232-pounder from San Antonio, he was named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2008 and has earned All-Big 12 first-team honors in both of his seasons in Norman.
"I know what to do and since I’m taking more control of the defense, I’m able to have more fun out there. I’m able to go out there and get the guys riled up, and having fun playing football. I think it’ll make our team better, when people are having and fun flying around and not thinking about being tired or what to do, just thinking about going out there and getting the next hit -- or big hit -- it just makes your team better," Lewis said. "I’ve always been a pretty vocal guy a guy who goes out there and definitely likes to talk trash and you know, get other players thinking about me. That’s always been a part of my game."
But the motivation to take his swagger over the top still needed to arrive. ESPN's recent 30 for 30 documentary, "The U," provided the extra motivation for Lewis.
"I want us to have that Miami swag of old," Lewis said. "The swag they went out there and played with, and the confidence they went out there and played with, I want that. I want that for this team. I want players to go out there and have fun. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can beat and we can shut out anyone that we play.
"I want us all to talk a little mess. Have fun with it. You only get to play this game for a short time, you don’t play forever so go out there and have fun."
The way Oklahoma's defense played last season, especially near the end, gives Lewis faith that he and the 10 guys around him can back up future smack. The Sooners shut out rival Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale and Lewis said Oklahoma kept Stanford's offense "in check" in a 31-27 win in the Sun Bowl.
For the season, they gave up just 14.5 points per game, seventh-fewest nationally and No. 2 in the Big 12, behind top-ranked Nebraska.
"We don’t want to give up anything," Lewis said. "We want to be the best defense in the Big 12 and the best in all of football, the goal hasn’t changed."
Even if Lewis' attitude -- at least on the outside -- has.