Alex Lewis had decided to leave.
To pack up his bags after two seasons in Colorado. To transfer after earning Pac-12 honorable mention.
The sophomore offensive lineman researched Florida State and Michigan State, Wisconsin and West Virginia. He and his dad started planning visits. But before I bust out my credit card, Bill Lewis said, tell me the truth. If you visit Nebraska and like what you see, do we even need to bother looking elsewhere?
No, Alex said.
“It saved me a bunch of money on plane tickets,” Bill said.
Friday morning, father and son sat in Bo Pelini's office, where Alex told the Nebraska coach he wanted to be a Husker. It's a perfect fit for both sides.
Alex wanted a program that took football more seriously. And Pelini needs offensive tackles. The Huskers don't often hand out scholarships to Division I transfers, but Lewis clearly made too much sense to pass up.
Bill was an All-America center for the Huskers in 1985 before playing seven seasons in the NFL. And Alex often visited Nebraska during childhood — his grandparents still live here.
“It's been a dream of mine to play where my father played,” Alex said. “I finally get to do that.”
He comes with a seal of approval from a Husker legend.
Charlie McBride, a Lewis family friend and Colorado alum, watched Alex grow up in the Phoenix area. He also saw Lewis play several games for the Buffaloes the past two years. Lewis was Colorado's best offensive lineman, McBride said.
“He's the real deal. In my opinion, he'll be playing on Sunday.”
For now, Lewis will be preparing for 2014. The 6-foot-6, 285-pounder will enroll this summer, sit out this fall because of transfer rules, then he'll be eligible for two seasons. That's important because the Huskers are scheduled to lose three scholarship tackles — Jeremiah Sirles, Brent Qvale and Andrew Rodriguez — after 2013.
As a kid, Alex Lewis frequently reminded Dad that he wanted to be a Husker, too. Before his senior year of high school, he attended camp at Nebraska.
Why didn't NU coaches want him then?
Probably because Lewis was 6-4 and only 240 pounds. McBride called him a “beanpole” in high school. Still, he flashed enough potential to receive scholarship offers from Colorado, Michigan State and smaller D-1 schools. He chose the Buffs. Then things got messy.
The coach to whom he committed, Dan Hawkins, was fired in December 2010. Jon Embree took over as Lewis enrolled as a grayshirt. Two years later, Embree was gone, too, replaced by Mike MacIntyre.
Lewis grew up with certain demands and expectations, set by his dad. At Colorado, he didn't find the same commitment. Players didn't take it as seriously as he did. His message to Dad: “I just want to go play someplace where football is important to the guys that are playing there.”
It wasn't so much wins and losses, Bill said. It was apathy from too many players.
“If there's a core group like that,” Bill said, “you don't have much of a chance of winning. ... I don't really want to rip on Colorado. They just are where they are.”
Alex wasn't happy in Boulder, but he was productive. Freshman year, he played left tackle and tight end at 6-6, 260. As a sophomore, he consistently called his dad to complain that he couldn't gain weight.
Don't worry, Bill said. One day you'll wake up and you'll be 300. Sure enough, Alex played pretty close to 300 last fall.
According to the Denver Post, Lewis graded out second-best of all Colorado linemen as a true sophomore. He allowed only two sacks. But by the end of 2012, he'd started weighing his options.
Lewis, who missed spring practice after having shoulder surgery, put in his transfer request in April. Bill Lewis reached out to Jeff Jamrog to see if NU was interested.
Alex arrived in Lincoln Thursday afternoon. He took the grand tour, met with coaches and support staff, hung out with players. The facilities blew him away. It was nothing like Colorado. Friday morning he committed.
“(Pelini) immediately went out of his office and told his assistants,” Bill said. “Next thing you know, coaches just started filing in and congratulating him.”
Alex was raised around the Husker culture, occasionally attending Big Red booster club functions in the desert. He marveled at the way fans treated his dad. You played 30 years ago and they still remember you.
His dad's response: “Well, football's a pretty big deal in Nebraska.”
All grown up, Alex Lewis is about to find out for himself.
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