Drew Lewis should have been exactly what coach Chris Petersen wanted at the University of Washington.
He was one of the bright football stars coming out of the state from Eastlake High School. He was a powerful linebacker, but also a dynamic tailback.
And it was all over for Lewis after a redshirt season in 2014 when he was dismissed for violating team rules.
“At the time, I thought it was crushing my dreams,” Lewis said. “It felt like I was done at that point.”
But Lewis never lost sight on what was ultimately most important, transferring to a junior college in the Midwest before signing with Colorado.
Now, Lewis is one of the Buffaloes’ top defenders in his first season starting at Jack linebacker — a defensive end/inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound redshirt junior is not only the team’s leading tackler (25 tackles, three quarterback hurries), he ranks sixth in the Pac-12.
Lewis and the Buffaloes host his former team Saturday in Boulder to open Pac-12 play.
“I know he’ll be excited about playing in this game,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntrye told area reporters this week. “He knows a lot of guys on that team.”
As good as Lewis was at Eastlake, his former coach saw a teenager who had his ups-and-downs with confidence as a senior.
“As the year went on, he became more and more confident,” said Don Bartel, whose first year coaching at Eastlake was Lewis’ final season — in 2013.
“I remember we played Camas in the state quarterfinals, and he took an inside zone play 65 yards for a touchdown. And I thought, ‘He is in the right place. He feels confident. He feels good.’ ”
Bartel had no reason to think at that time Lewis would not be a big hit with the Huskies.
But that 2014 season at the UW was the first time Lewis had been separated from his twin brother, Troy. And he struggled to find the right kind of support system at a new school.
“I was still learning, and the people I was hanging out with were not people I should have been hanging out with,” Lewis said. “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.’ ”
This week, Petersen declined to elaborate much on Lewis’ tenure with the Huskies: “(He) redshirted, and then moved on. That’s about it.”
After being released from his letter of intent in July of 2015, Lewis talked to his father, Will, a former cornerback with the Seattle Seahawks, about what he should do next.
At the time, Will Lewis was the director of pro scouting with the Kansas City Chiefs, and suggested that the twins reunite at a junior college two hours up the road — Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College.
“I noticed a lot of people stopped supporting me — they thought I was falling off,” Drew Lewis said. “That played into my motivation. At (junior college), I just kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get out here and get back to where I should be.’ That mindset is what really pushed me.”
Lewis broke his hand in his first college game at Coffeyville, missed the next month and saw his recruiting opportunities dwindle.
But at the end of the 2015 season, former Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt came out to watch Lewis. Ultimately, it came down to Colorado or Utah State. Lewis chose Colorado.
Last year, he sat behind Kenneth Olugbode, who started at that position for three consecutive years. Olugbode is now in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns.
But after spring camp, Lewis was named the most improved linebacker. His 130-inch broad jump during team testing would have been the best of any linebacker who attended the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
That superior athleticism, and supreme confidence, has carried over to the field.
“Being a dude on the field is super cool for him right now,” Bartel said.
PAC-12 RANKINGS No. 1 USC (3-0, No. 1 last week)
Last week: d. Texas, 27-24 (2 OT)
This week: Sat. at California
Like his uneven play or not, Sam Darnold still winning the nailbiters.
No. 2 WASHINGTON (3-0, No. 2)
Last week: d. Fresno State, 48-16
This week: Sat. at Colorado
Lost in all the Dante Pettis hoopla is emergence of new star — Hunter Bryant.
No. 3 WASHINGTON STATE (3-0, No. 4)
Last week: d. Oregon State, 52-23
This week: Sat. vs. Nevada
Mike Leach might ask aliens to pour whiskey shots if Cougs don’t move to 4-0.
No. 4 UTAH (3-0, No. 5)
Last week: d. San Jose State, 54-16
This week: Fri. at Arizona
Quietly, talented offense flourishing — and run defense is nation’s best (1.66 ypc).
No. 5 OREGON (2-0, No. 6 )
Last week: d. Wyoming, 49-13
This week: Sat. at Arizona State
Ducks’ non-conference road win in Laramie arguably league’s best in 2017.
No. 6 STANFORD (1-2, No. 3)
Last week: Lost to San Diego State, 20-17
This week: Sat. vs. UCLA
Loss at USC — understandable. Loss at San Diego State — utterly troublesome.
No. 7 COLORADO (3-0, No. 8)
Last week: d. Northern Colorado, 41-21
This week: Sat. vs. Washington
Last year, Steven Montez saw a few snaps against UW in Pac-12 title game. It’s all his gig now.
No. 8 UCLA (2-1, No. 7)
Last week: Lost to Memphis, 48-45
This week: Sat. at Stanford
Where’s the defense? Bruins gave up 560 yards last week, most since 2014.
No. 9 CALIFORNIA (3-0, No. 9)
Last week: d. Ole Miss, 27-16
This week: Sat. vs. USC
Bears win a different way Saturday night — defense, led by LB Devante Downs.
No. 10 ARIZONA (2-1, No. 11)
Last week: d. UTEP, 63-10
This week: Friday vs. Utah
If Wildcats can match season average (328.0 rush yards), they will upset Utes.
No. 11 ARIZONA STATE (1-2, No. 10)
Last week: lost to Texas Tech, 52-45
This week: Sat. vs. Oregon
Offense getting there; defense and special teams still need a ton of improvement.
No. 12 OREGON STATE (1-3, No. 12)
Last week: lost to Washington St., 52-23
This week: Bye.
Fortunately, Beavers get a week off to get bad Luke Falk dreams out of their heads.