STILLWATER — Sophomore linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey first met in a fast-food restaurant, and this dynamic duo soon discovered how similar they are in work ethic, leadership and love of the game.
Lewis, who finished the 2010 season fifth on the team in tackles, was selected a first-team freshman All-American by Rivals and the Football Writers Association of America. He also intercepted three passes as a freshman.
Lavey's true freshman season was hampered by an early injury, but he enters 2011 as a strong candidate to succeed Orie Lemon as the Cowboys' middle linebacker.
What were your first impressions of one another?
Lewis: I just thought, ‘Man, that's a big guy.' We first met ... didn't we first meet at a Whataburger?
Lavey: I think we did first meet at a Whataburger here in Stillwater. It's a great place to meet. ... Before that, I saw him at a camp once, and thought he was an unbelievable athlete. I was already committed, and he wasn't yet, and I thought, ‘We need to get this guy here.'
What's one thing about each other that you admire?
Lewis: Caleb is a student of the game. He's gonna know what everybody else is supposed to be doing, and he's going to do what he has to do.
Lavey: Shaun's leadership. He takes control over different situations. He's an unbelievable athlete, but he is also a student of the game. He knows what everyone is supposed to be doing, and he takes care of his business, which just makes the defense work better.
How are you guys most alike, and least alike?
Lewis: We both just love football; we come to practice every day wanting to practice and wanting to get better, so that's a trait we share. Least alike? How are we least alike?
Lewis: Yeah, I like thicker girls. Caleb likes them a little bit slender.
Lavey: We have a lot of similarities when it comes to our work ethic, our leadership and the roles we play on the team. For the most part, our similarities help strengthen our defense.
Anything embarrassing that you'd like to share about each other?
Lavey: Shaun can't sing good.
Lewis: (Laughs) I sing good, but when nobody's around. That's the thing.
DUO THEY MOST RESEMBLE
Batman and Robin
Lewis, like Batman, always gets his man, often in a punishing and painful way. POW! THWACK! Lavey, a la Robin, is there for support, sometimes saving the day, yet clearly benefiting from the relationship. Maybe Lavey, with all the physical attributes, is a leading man in training. Time will tell.
FROM THE COACH
Co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer on the linebackers:
“These guys are so green, every day I've got to be on my A game. Teaching technique, attention specific, assuming they don't know anything. Don't assume anything. Now, bam, every day it's a challenge. You come off the field and watch the film and go, ‘Oh man, we've got a long way to go. Then you see them make a play and it's, ‘OK, he'll be all right for us.'”
OSU LINEBACKER DYNAMIC DUO
Ricky Young & Mike Green, 1980-81
The second- and third-leading tacklers in OSU history played two seasons together, side by side. Young and Green were dominant players following in the wake of John Corker, perhaps the greatest linebacker in OSU history.
Young was three-time all-Big Eight, the 1980 conference defensive player of the year and a 1981 all-American.
Green was all-Big Eight in 1982, the year after Young's senior season, making a still-school record 183 tackles. But Green was equally productive in '80 and '81, with 138 and 129 tackles, respectively.
Young and Green combined for six of the 22 top season tackle totals in OSU history.
As much as Orie Lemon's production – and that was significant – the Cowboys may miss his leadership more. Justin Gent, who finally thrived as a senior, must be replaced, too. Shaun Lewis, last year's rising star, is an anchor. Elsewhere, the replacements – Alex Elkins, Caleb Lavey, Tyler Johnson, et al – are athletic, but unproven.
SLB Shaun Lewis
MLB Caleb Lavey
WLB Alex Elkins
SLB James Thomas
MLB Tyler Johnson
WLB Joe Mitchell
Unit Grade: B
There are athletes across the board, and coaches are optimistic, but inexperience is an issue.