Gerald McCoy, the unquestioned leader of the Oklahoma Sooners defense the past two years, has graduated and taken his big, teddy bear friendly personality to the NFL, Tampa Bay to be specific. Most people would naturally be concerned after losing such a great player and leader, but not Sooner fans.
Lewis is the starting weak-side linebacker for the Oklahoma Sooners defense and has established himself as one of the top linebackers in the country through his first two seasons.
Lewis came to Oklahoma in 2007 out of San Antonio, Texas, where he attended Robert E. Lee High School. Lewis actually starred as both a linebacker and a running back in high school, running for over 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns his senior season. He was selected to participate in the US Army All-American game after his senior year as well.
Lewis wasn't the most highly touted recruit coming out of high school, but he was a prized recruit nonetheless. Lewis nearly signed with Nebraska before choosing Oklahoma on signing day in 2007.
Scout ranked Lewis as the No. 10 middle linebacker in the country, while Rivals ranked him as the No. 20 outside linebacker and the No. 37 overall player in Texas. Running back was never really an option for Lewis, as the Sooners were, and still are completely stocked at the position. In fact, linebacker wasn't an immediate option either, as Lewis red-shirted his first year on campus.
In 2008, Lewis was in competition for a starting linebacker spot and seemed destined to be nothing more than a backup as a freshman. However, sophomore Austin Box was injured during practice and this allowed Lewis to grab the third starter position, a spot he has held ever since.
Lewis' freshman year was, by all standards, a rousing success. He led the team in with 144 tackles and notched 11.5 tackles for loss, three and a half sacks, and four interceptions. Lewis also tied Sooner's legendary Brian Bosworth's record for tackles by a freshman when he recorded 19 against Texas.
The Associated Press and Kansas City Star named Lewis as the Big 12 Newcomer-of-the-Year and the coaches of the conference voted him as Big 12 Defensive Freshman-of-the-Year. Lewis was also named first team all-conference by the majority of the media outlets in the Big 12 area.
The 2009 season saw much of the same outstanding play from Lewis that characterized his freshman year. Lewis once again led the team in tackles with 109, but dropped off in his production elsewhere. Simply put, the Sooners had a better defense with a lot more playmakers.
Lewis was selected to the first or second team all-Big 12 by all the major publications in the geographic footprint of the conference. It was obvious that Lewis was getting the respect he so rightfully deserved.
With McCoy gone, leadership naturally fell to Lewis. Although he has been one of the younger members of the defense the past two seasons, Lewis was never a quiet player on the field. Lewis has been an extremely dynamic personality on the field, and extremely verbal.
For example, before the Red and White spring scrimmage, Lewis was proclaiming that his White team need only score three points because his defense would take care of the Red offense without a problem.
Lewis made good on his promise, as the White team shut out the Red team 23-0 and proceeded to enjoy the reward of a steak dinner. Lewis was seen prancing around the locker afterward in all white proclaiming that he would be holding the mustard and ketchup for the Red team's hot dog dinner.
Throughout the off season, Lewis has been very vocal about his role as a leader and how he feels the 2010 edition of the Sooners is shaping up. Lewis is a very articulate individual and really turns in a quality interview whenever he speaks.
While there may be a void left by Gerald McCoy, it's not in the leadership department. Travis Lewis is the unquestioned leader of the defense.
And the team.