Facing former team, Lewis vows to 'keep it straight' Saturday night

Scott Hood, Staff Writer
CU Sports Nation

Washington coach expects hostile environment at Folsom Field

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CUBuffs

If his college football career has gone the way he initially planned, Drew Lewis would likely be lining up opposite the Colorado offense Saturday night at Folsom Field as a key contributor on Washington’s defense.

Instead, he’ll be wearing the black and silver of the Buffaloes.

Attending Eastlake High in Sammamish, WA, Lewis was one of the top prep prospects in the state of Washington for the 2014 recruiting cycle (Rivals.com ranked him No. 7 overall in the state) and his decision to sign with the Huskies as part of Chris Peterson’s first recruiting class was celebrated by UW supporters everywhere.

However, his stay in Montlake was brief. He was dismissed in the summer of 2015 for a violation of team rules. He landed at a junior college in Kansas, handled his business the right way and gladly signed with Colorado in February 2016, viewing his opportunity to play for another FBS program as a coveted second chance.

Twenty months later, Lewis, a redshirt junior insider linebacker in Colorado’s aggressive 3-4 scheme, will face his former team as the Buffs leading tackler with 25 stops (per Pac-12 stats), tying him for sixth in the conference in his first year as a full-time starter.

“This is going to be a primetime-type of game,” Lewis told reporters earlier this week. “It’s the Pac-12 championship rematch and there’s a lot of hype going into it. We have a feel for how they play and they have feel for us. We’ve got them at home, and I love playing at Folsom (Field). We haven’t lost a game in Folsom since 2015 and we want to keep that going.”

Lewis said he will try his best to avoid his emotions get the best of him, and treat Saturday as just another game, realizing at the same time the high stakes involved since it’s a nationally televised Pac-12 conference game.

“We’re going into Pac-12 play, so we’ll up the ante a little bit,” Lewis said. “Personally , there are no ill feelings (toward UW). I’m trying not to take that approach. I want to treat it as another football game. I don’t want to get my emotions mixed into it. I’m trying to keep it straight.”

Even Washington coach Chris Peterson is pleased Lewis, named the Greg Biekert Award winner for most improved linebacker after spring practice, has found a comfortable landing spot after leaving UW in disgrace just over two years ago.

“Good athlete, and I know he’s doing well over there, so I’m happy for him,” Petersen said earlier this week during his weekly press conference.

Indeed, Lewis’s elite athleticism is clearly his best asset. In the Buffs’ strength and conditioning testing at the close of the spring semester, he power cleaned 345 pounds (tied for second best on the team) and had a team-best 130.0-inch broad jump. How impressive was that? His broad jump was LONGER than any linebacker who participated in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.

“The thing I’m really pleased about is he’s playing fast as far as executing,” Mike MacIntyre said Tuesday about Lewis at his weekly press conference. “I’m pleased he has settled down and played with the same speed he has athletically. Sometimes, new guys at linebacker in their first few games get paralyzed by everything and don’t play as fast. But he’s doing that.”

MacIntyre realizes Saturday night’s game means a lot of Lewis, not only as a former Husky player but as a Washington native as well. Plenty of family and friends back home in the Evergreen State will be watching the game on television, some perhaps with mixed emotions.

“I know he’ll be excited about playing in this game,” MacIntyre said. “He knows a lot of guys on that team. Of course, he was there, so he’ll like to play well against them. There will be a lot of friends and family watching it all over Washington that know him.”

Lewis’ path to Colorado was fascinating in that the Buffs were recruiting another player at the same junior college (Coffeyville JC) he was attending when they discovered him. The JUCO coach tipped the Buffs off about Lewis. The coaches watched film and soon began recruiting him. CU coaches traveled to Kansas to watch him play in person. A few months later, Lewis signed with CU.

“He looked really good,” MacIntyre said. “When we began recruiting him, we found out the back story. His dad worked for the Kansas City Chiefs, and we knew some people in that circle. He wanted to be here and we liked the fit for us at JACK linebacker. We liked his speed and his size. We thought he would be a good linebacker for us, and he has been.”

NOTES:

-- Ranked as high as No. 6 in the AP poll, Washington is the highest ranked team to visit Boulder since Oct. 5, 2013 when Oregon came in ranked No. 2. According to CU, a crowd of approximately 48,000 is expected for the game.

-- Colorado has opened 3-0 for the 41st time in its 128-year history, but for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since opening 5-0 in 1998 (3-0 also in 2004). The last time the Buffs were 4-0 was in 1998 – Rick Neuheisel’s final year as head coach.

-- Colorado’s current 8-game home winning streak is the longest for the Buffs at Folsom since winning 10 in a row from 1993-95.

WEEK 4 PAC-12 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE (Sept. 22-23)

Fri., Sept. 22

Utah at Arizona, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)

Sat. Sept. 23

USC at California, 1:30 p.m. (ABC)

Nevada at Washington State, 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

Washington at Colorado, 8 p.m. (FS1)

Oregon at Arizona State, 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

UCLA at Stanford, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

(All Times Mountain)

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