SEATTLE – Drew Lewis lost his way at Washington. He knows this now.
“I knew I had screwed up,” he said.
A linebacker out of Eastlake High in Sammamish, Washington, Lewis signed with the Huskies as part of Chris Petersen’s first UW recruiting class in 2014. A year and half later, in the summer of 2015, Lewis was dismissed by Petersen for what was described then as a violation of team rules.
“That definitely crushed me,” Lewis said.
“It was interesting how it ended there,” he added. “I was still learning and the people I was hanging out with were not people I should have been hanging out with. I saw myself starting to get in trouble – my grades started dropping, my focus was lacking on and off the field.
“The coaches sat me down and just said, ‘This isn’t working.’ ”
Two years later, Lewis has found his place again in the Pac-12. He’ll be starting at inside linebacker for Colorado (3-0) against the No. 7 Huskies (3-0) in both teams’ Pac-12 opener Saturday night in Boulder.
He wasn’t sure he would make it back to major-college football. After leaving UW, Lewis made his way to a junior college in Coffeyville, Kansas – “the middle of nowhere,” he said.
“At the time, I thought it was crushing my dreams,” he said. “It felt like I was done at that point. I didn’t know about JC or how that worked.”
To make matters worse, Lewis said he broke his thumb in his first game at Coffeyville in 2015 and missed the next five games. He wasn’t sure any big-time coach would notice him again.
“Junior college can really make or break someone,” said Lewis, whose father, Will, played cornerback for the Seahawks in 1980-81 and has spent 25 years as an NFL scout.
“The people there – there are a group of athletes really determined to get back to Division I, to bounce back, and then a lot of delinquents who have been in trouble. I just came from being at Washington, and I knew I had screwed up and I didn’t want to do the same thing twice. I had to make sure who I was hanging around. I was really put to the test there. The whole experience was pretty humbling.”
By the end of the 2015 season, Lewis had shown enough at Coffeyville at attract scholarship offers from three programs: Colorado, Utah State and Memphis. He hit it off with then-Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who traveled to Kansas to recruit the linebacker.
“I’m immensely grateful to him,” Lewis said.
He signed with the Buffaloes in 2016, and played in every games during Colorado’s surprising march to the Pac-12 South title last season. (His twin brother, Troy, was also on the Buffaloes’ roster last year as a preferred walk-on.)
On Colorado’s rebuilt defense this season, Lewis has been one of the team’s best players in his first season as a starter. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior has played a team-high 205 snaps on defense and leads the team with 35 tackles.
“Good athlete, and I know he’s doing well over there, so I’m happy for him,” Petersen said this week.
“I feel like I’m home again,” Lewis said. “I loved Washington, and the people here are just great too. I fell in love all over again. It can’t get much better than this.”
He’s eager to face his old team Saturday night.
“For me, this is going to be a primetime type of game,” he said. “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, 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.”
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