|Art credit: Dick Lubey|
According to the Associated Press (AP), Lewis coached at Tampa Catholic High from 1986 to 1990, compiling a 33-19 record and winning a district title.
At the University of Southern California Lewis was a three-year varsity letterman from 1974-76 after playing a year at San Diego City College. As a senior, he was a First-team All-Pac-8 and the year before led the Trojans in tackles (90) and left USC with two Rose Bowl championships (1975 & 1977)
He is survived by his wife and a daughter. He was predeceased by his son.
Lewis after his stardom at USC and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second-round (29th overall) of the 1977 NFL Draft by his former coach John McKay.
He started as a rookie for the Bucs and made an immediate impact and was recognized as an All-Rookie pick by Football Digest. He improved every year through 1980, making Second-team All-Pro in 1979 (As well as All-NFC) and was a Pro Bowler in 1980.
However, the wheels kind of came off after that. In 1981, after slow to the season, (he had a disciplinary issue then sprained an ankle in warmups in mid-season and it was never right the rest of the season but regained his starting job only to lose it again by season's end.
The AP summed it up this way:
He was released after the season and in 1983 he signed with the Los Angeles Rams and another coach familiar with his talents—John Robinson.
With the Rams, he was the middle linebacker in their sub defenses (nickel and dime) and did a fine job, especially late in the year when that subpackage was particularly effective and was a key to the playoff win in Dallas that season. However, he didn't make the team in 1984 and his NFL career was over.
Lewis, though, was really, someone who was overlooked in his prime of 1977-80. He was a linebacker who could cover, blitz when called upon and would make a lot of tackles in the backfield for the Bucs.
|Chart credit: Pro Football Journal|
One could pick any one of a half-dozen and not be wrong. And Lewis was among that group that was composed of Matt Blair and Brad Van Pelt (Pro Bowlers both), Bob Swenson of Denver who could pound any tight end in the league, the Rams' Jim Youngblood (73 tackles, 1½ sacks, five picks—two for touchdowns, nine passes defended and a forced fumble) and Kim Bokamper (a SAM in base and a left defensive end in nickel who had 8 sacks in that combined role).
Lewis had 89 tackles, 13 stuffs (tackle for a loss tallied the same as sacks) plus 5½ sacks, four forced fumbles two picks and right passes defensed plus a scoop and score numbers just as good as any of the "non-Jack Hams" if you will.
Though complete stats are not available, PFJ has done enough research that we are confident that Lewis's 57 run stuffs over a four-year period (1977-80) about as many are you are going to find from any off-the-ball linebacker—more than Hall of Famers Ray Lewis (best four consecutive seasons is 53 stuffs) and Junior Seau (52 stuffs) and trailing only the Buccaneers own Lavonte David who had 57.5 in his first four seasons—rare company indeed.
The 6-4, 245-pound Lewis was the classic complete 3-4 linebacker and as such, he didn't get the big sack numbers and sometimes, still, got overlooked in a lot of ways. But he had a worthy run from 1977-80 and it should be remembered fondly. We do remember it that way.