IRVING, Texas — His whole life, Travis Lewis has been the entertainer.
Sometimes, too much the entertainer.
""I've always been the entertainer of the family, making them laugh," Lewis recalled. "I was a bad little kid, getting into too much trouble. In second grade. ... I actually bit the principal."
By middle school, Lewis had grown out of being a troublemaker. And a biter. But he never stopped being an entertainer. A personality trait by which Lewis, Oklahoma's junior linebacker, now leads his team.
"Travis, he's entertaining," coach Bob Stoops said during OU's turn at Big 12 media days Wednesday. "He's a great competitor, though. It's one thing to be entertaining without being a great competitor. I'm not much for that. He's what you want in how he works and his toughness and attitude in playing and taking it seriously. But he also, when it's time for somebody to chuckle, he's quick to do it."
During a tumultuous 2009 season, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy showed just how important an emotional, but fun-loving leader can be.
The Sooners could have crumbled after losing quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending injury, but instead won their final two games to salvage the season.
McCoy's platform to call out his teammates while also reminding them that football is supposed to be fun helped keep the team together.
A three-year starter and preseason All-Big 12 selection, Lewis has a similar platform. And a similar personality.
"That's me. Make players love football. I love that," said Lewis, who showed up to media days donning a fro-hawk (half Afro, half mohawk). "I want to spread that to the other players. Make them remember why they're playing this game. Go out there and not just be the voice of the coaches, but have fun with the guys."
No time did Lewis show that more than during the Red-White Spring Game this past spring. In the days leading up to the scrimmage, Lewis touted his White team while trash-talking the Red. After the White team shut out the Red, Lewis showed up to the interview room wearing a white jumpsuit with a white hat and shades. And plenty more trash-talk.
"That was semi-me," he said. "I don't let my personality out a lot with the media. But I felt like I wanted to have a little bit of fun, so I let it out."
But don't be confused. Lewis realizes when to be serious.
"Football," helped with that, Lewis said. "It's fun to be up here with you guys, but when it's game time, you have to flip the switch. In the film room, workouts. Got to flip the switch. Got to have a switch to flip.
"If it's fun and games all the time, you're not going to get anywhere."
Lewis learned that on early on in life.
"I grew up in a big family," said Lewis, who grew up with three brothers and three sisters, all close to the same age. Their mom had to work two jobs to support the family.
"She wasn't able to be around much, raising seven children by herself," Lewis said. "Someone had to be the guy the other children looked up to. I made a conscious decision to be that guy. I didn't want my younger brothers to be like me, to do what I was doing. I knew whatever I did, they would do. That's why I never got into drugs, never got into drinking because I knew that if I did it, they would follow. Even my older brother, he would follow.
"So in middle school, I turned it around. Decided to be a good guy. Someone they could look up to."
Lewis continues to lead those around him. Continues to entertain them, too.
"He's fun," Stoops said. "Fun to coach. Fun to be around. And fun in the locker room for the guys."