LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska offensive lineman Alex Lewis doesn’t run away from that spring night in 2013 that threatened to derail his football career. He owns it but refuses to let it define him.
It was 15 months ago that he walked out of a Colorado jail where he served almost a month for his role in an alcohol-fueled assault. Now he’s one of the Cornhuskers’ team captains, just like his dad Bill Lewis was in 1985.
“Looking back two years ago, I was in a dark place,” Alex Lewis said. “To be called co-captain with five other teammates of mine is a pretty cool feeling - something that I get to express one day hopefully to my children, my children’s children, and they’ll get to come in the hallway and see my photo with my father. It’s something me and him can share together and look back down the road and be proud of it.”
Lewis will begin his second season as the starting left tackle when the Huskers open at home against BYU on Sept. 5. By all accounts, he’s been a model citizen at Nebraska. He earned Big Ten academic all-conference honors last year, and this summer he received his degree in sociology. His teammates, judging by the captain vote, look up to him.
“He’s been remarkably accomplished since the day he left custody,” said Gary Lozow, the Denver attorney who represented Lewis. “Nebraska embraced him, and the people there counseled him. The kid has a bright future.”
Milt Tenopir, the Huskers’ offensive line coach from 1974-2002, has been a fixture at practices since the spring and said Alex plays a lot like his father did. Tenopir coached Bill Lewis, who was an All-America center in 1985 and went on to play in the NFL.
“They’re both big, lanky guys,” Tenopir said. “Alex really likes the game of football, and his daddy did, too. And like his daddy, he’s a real steady player. I hope he has the kind of year he and everybody expects.”
The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder’s main job will be to protect the blind side of quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., who probably will throw more in new coach Mike Riley’s offense. Lewis said his priorities are to polish his overall game and cut down on penalties.
“Hopefully I can bring that mentality of being the nastiest guy out there on the football field. That’s something I try to be every Saturday,” Lewis said. “If you want to put your hand down in front of me and try to tell me you’re going to touch my quarterback or running back, you can make sure I’m going to stop you. Nobody is going to hit my teammates.”
Alex grew up in Tempe, Arizona, and began his college career at Colorado. He started 15 games over two seasons, but he wanted out as the losses piled up and decided to transfer to Nebraska.
But before he got to Lincoln, Lewis and a CU teammate got into a drunken fight with an Air Force cadet in Boulder on May 11, 2013. Lewis originally faced two felony charges, but in an agreement with prosecutors he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. He began serving his sentence following Nebraska’s 2014 spring semester and was released after 28 days. Then he headed straight for Lincoln.
Bill Lewis declined an interview to discuss Alex’s ascent to team captain.
Lozow pointed out that Alex Lewis had no criminal record before the assault and none since. The attorney said he believes the felony charges were defensible, but Lewis didn’t want to risk having to serve a longer sentence in a state prison if a jury had convicted him. Lewis has expressed remorse for injuring the cadet and said he learned a valuable lesson.
“It’s hard to walk the straight and narrow, especially when I was going down the wrong path,” Lewis said. “But now I’m ready to rock and roll. That’s behind me, and there’s nothing in front of me to stop me from excelling.”
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