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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

Lewis didn't name names, but he wasn't exactly understanding of their situations.

“Some of them couldn't help it,” he said. “I know I played with a broken toe. The coaches would have had to drag me off the field for me not to play, so, disappointed in some of the guys.

“I guess if the trainers tell you you can't play, you can't play. I just know they told me I shouldn't play, and I played.”

Lewis might've had the best intentions. Maybe he wanted to inspire. Perhaps he hoped to motivate. Instead, he angered some teammates.

A few days later, he issued a behind-closed-doors apology to the team.

Listen, I'm not here to suggest that Lewis is some sort of monster. Much of his impact on the program has been positive. Mentoring younger linebackers. Taking charge of the tributes honoring the late Austin Box. Playing 11 games this season with a broken toe.

The Insight Bowl will be the first time that he will play without needing a small cast designed specifically for him inside his shoe.

Stoops marveled about Lewis on Wednesday. Said not many players could've come back and played as well as he did. Said he did it mostly with his head.

And it is pretty remarkable that Lewis ranks second on the team with 79 tackles — only one off the lead — despite an injury that limited his mobility and his quickness.

His head told him to do things that his body couldn't always do.

“He showed great courage this year playing injured,” Venables said recently. “Even though he wasn't physically capable of being a hundred percent, he made a lot of sacrifice in putting himself back out there because he loves to play and compete.”

Of that, there can be no doubt. But as Lewis's time at OU comes to a close, it does so with a peculiar ending. It's difficult to pin down. It's hard to put a finger on.

But there is a moment that might encapsulate it. Late in the fourth quarter of Bedlam, Lewis started celebrating madly after the Sooners recovered a Cowboy fumble. He strutted. He pranced.

The Sooners trailed by 41 points.

Lewis's reaction wasn't exactly what you'd expect in that situation out of a senior captain. It was bizarre.

Sort of like the ending to his career — it's not bad, but it's definitely bizarre.

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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