Dec. 30, 2011 – When linebacker Travis Lewis showed up to play for the Oklahoma Sooners, he reminded a lot of people of a former linebacker in Sooners’ history. Lewis talked loud and played even harder. He was the new version of Brian Bosworth, without the NCAA inflammatory statements.
He talked smack against his own teammates during the Red-White game. He wore a cowboy hat and talked smack about the Texas Longhorns. He had a big mouth but it was all in fun. The most important thing is that Travis Lewis went out and backed it up on the field. He finished his freshman year with 144 tackles, breaking Bosworth’s freshman record, backing up everything he said with solid play. He followed that up with 109 tackles in 2009 and 109 more in 2010.
He has passed everyone but Daryl Hunt and Jackie Shipp on the Sooners’ all-time tackles list.
Then, Lewis chose to return for his senior season at Oklahoma. He could have been a first round draft pick in the NFL if he left. However, along with Ryan Broyles, he wanted to come back and win a national championship. ESPN came to town and profiled the Sooners before the season began.
As always, Lewis was outspoken. The Oklahoma defense nicknamed themselves The Sharks and they said they were going to be all over the opposing team. Then everything went wrong. Lewis collided with a running back in a practice drill and broke the sesamoid bone in his left foot. He was supposed to be out until the Texas game.
However, he worked hard and returned in time for the Florida State game. He was not full strength but he was back.
“It just shows the toughness and character that he has because he never gave up,” defensive end Frank Alexander said. “He could have just said he’s not going to worry about playing this season because of the toe. But he still was out there with us. I respect him for that.”
The problem with returning is that he was not able to fully recover. He was not practicing with the team and was playing in pain. After the Kansas State game, Lewis stopped talking to the media. According to teammates, he also stopped talking trash in practice.
Travis Lewis stopped being Travis Lewis.
“I was used to that trash-talking, confident type of guy. He’ll just have his days where he doesn’t feel good or he isn’t feeling it. And it’ll show. You’re able to tell,” linebacker Corey Nelson said. “His aura wasn’t what it used to be.”
Now, with almost a full month since the last game played, Lewis is back to full health. He just finished the worst season of his college career, with 78 tackles and no sacks. He hopes to rectify his bad play in the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
“It’s been disappointing for me. I pride myself on going out there and not just talking, but really being able to help my team a lot,” he said. “I don’t think I was as effective I have been in the past.
“You’ll see me at the healthiest I’ve been all season in this game,” he concluded. “I guess I have no excuses.”