Lewis: Redemption in Reliant

It was said that Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis would need to have a great game to help his team to a win. Mission accomplished. But what is more important is the venue to which he shined. Reliant Stadium has a bit of history with Lewis. And he clearly remembers...

For a moment it seemed like déjà vu. 

Seeing No. 11 at the linebacker position with Lewis written on the back of it. Not many plays go by without that name being called and it looks like he is always somewhere near the ball when it is downed. Of course the setting for all of this action is taking place in Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. 

The Lewis who is being described is none other than Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis, who is playing in the Advocare Texas Kickoff on opening weekend of the 2013 college football season. In the end, the Cowboys beat Mississippi State by the score of 21-3. But for Lewis it is on this field where he has encountered a variety of emotions. 

While he plays in his final season as a member of the Cowboy football team, it was his final game in high school where Lewis was a star on this very field. Arguably the best player in the 2008 Division I Class 5A state title game against Allen, Lewis and his Hightower team did not make enough plays, which resulted in a 21-14 loss. For his performance the sports writers in attendance awarded Lewis with the defensive player of the game. And that was the right call, especially after racking up double-digit tackles and literally playing out of his mind.

Fast forward to Fall of 2013 and Lewis is quite similar. Sure he has put on some weight, but he has nearly the same body build, bold walk and enough energy to light up an empty stadium. Much like he did is high school, Lewis was one of the leaders of the team in tackles on this day with seven stops a half sack. 

Make no mistake about it, that December 20, 2008 game was still fresh on his mind. And if it wasn't, he had someone close to him remind him that it was time to reverse the outcome of what had happened four years ago. 

"My mom actually text me this morning and reminded me about the last time I played here. I thought about it a little bit, but at the same time I had task to do today and I couldn't dwell on it too long," Lewis said. 

Clearly he did not as Lewis came out of the locker room and was the team's leading run stopper by halftime. But lots of what Lewis does will not end up on the stats sheet. And for those who truly pay attention to the game, it can be seen.

Lewis plays in a way where he allows others to make plays. In addition, Lewis does lots of cleanup work, meaning when a player is stood up Lewis will finish it off. Really, today's win was mainly about what the defense did, which was truly set the tone. Even coach Mike Gundy acknowledged this in the postgame presser.

"Defense kept us in the game," Gundy said. 

That's a long way from what many perceive Oklahoma State to be, which is a high octane, scoring machine. True, this team is still that, but not so much against Mississippi State. So what will ultimately end up happening is that this offense, which will now be led by J.W. Walsh as Gundy said postgame, will get much better along with a defense that has talent and a ton of confidence to go with it. 

Like it was back at Hightower, Lewis came to Oklahoma State with an attitude that defense would set the tone in games, and for the season. Well, going into year No. 4 and Lewis knows that it has been the offense is what they are mainly known for. And with that, this win feels even better.

"It felt good. To play as dominant as we did and have fun. It feels so surreal to be back in this stadium and do it, especially in this exact stadium," Lewis said. "I have been here four years and it's a great feeling. This is what I came here to do. I'm glad we have the opportunity to do better (as a defense) this season. This win will give us a ton of confidence going forward. We just need to get back to work and get ready for UTSA."

Some in the media picked Oklahoma State to finish out the year as champions of the Big 12 Conference. And while even Gundy would admit that there is still work to do (of course it is the first game of the season), this is not a bad place to start – with a defense that is clicking and an offense itching to put up 50 points on any given afternoon.

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