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Oklahoma football: Travis Lewis' storied OU career comes to peculiar ending

INSIGHT BOWL COMMENTARY — The Sooner linebacker played with a broken toe this season, but his emotional leadership and comments about teammates not playing with injuries seemed to rub some the wrong way.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 28, 2011

— Taking a seat on the small riser with his name above it, Travis Lewis looked at the reporters who'd been awaiting his arrival.

“How y'all doin'?” he said.

He shook a few willing hands.

“Long time, no see, guys.”

Just shy of two months, to be exact. That's how long the Sooner linebacker was in his own personally induced media blackout. But on Wednesday during Oklahoma's media day at the Insight Bowl, Lewis was as loquacious and entertaining as ever.

It was the latest chapter in the peculiar culmination of one of the most storied careers in Sooner history.

Lewis has a chance of becoming the first player to lead the Sooners in tackles all four seasons of his career, an amazing feat considering the defensive superstars who've worn the crimson and cream. The Selmon brothers. Roy Williams. Tony Casillas. None of them had the statistical impact that Lewis has had.

Yet as his time at OU comes to an end on Friday, there's a weird vibe about Lewis.

Lose a guy like him, and most of the time, tributes would be flowing. Superlatives would be substantial. Praises would be plentiful.

Instead, teammates and coaches have spent the past few weeks defending Lewis. He's a captain but refused to be a team spokesman? He's a guy who talked when the Sooners were winning but then went into media blackout when they started losing, leaving other guys to explain what was going wrong?

“I really don't know how to answer that,” linebacker Tony Jefferson said recently. “I don't want to get into that.

“I like Travis. We all like Travis.”

But talk to teammates, and you'll hear that some of them had grown tired of the way Lewis tried to lead.

He is an emotional guy. No denying that. It is one of the things that made him a great player, but often, those emotions would boil over and burn teammates, especially younger ones.

They would screw up in front of God and everyone, resulting in an earful from their position coach, then from Brent Venables, then from Bob Stoops. And then when they reached the bench and thought they'd survived, they'd get it from Lewis.

That Lewis would take guys to task like that grated on teammates both young and old.

Then came less-than-complimentary comments about some injured teammates after that loss to Texas Tech. Three starters — running back Dom Whaley, cornerback Jamell Fleming and defensive tackle Casey Walker — missed the game with different ailments. A couple others missed snaps during the game with injuries.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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