By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
|Head Coach Tim DeRuyter
FRESNO, Calif. - Former Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney coined the term "I'm Bulldog Born, Bulldog Bred and I'm going to be a Bulldog until the day I'm Dead." Well for Fresno State senior outside linebacker Donavon Lewis, he simply is the definition of that term that has become a symbol of Bulldog Athletics.
"Everybody says they are Bulldog Born and Bulldog Bred - I'm the truth," Lewis said. "I'm really Bulldog Born and Bulldog Bred. My dad played here, my brother played here, my mom played sports here and my sister ran track here."
The neat part here with Sweeney's tradition that he started, that to this day the football team still closes the end of every practice with the same coined phrase that Lewis' father, James, used when it all started under Sweeny when he played at Fresno State.
A native of El Cerrito, Calif., James came to Fresno State in 1982 from Contra Costa Junior College to play for Sweeney and the Bulldogs. A linebacker, James recorded 41 tackles and one interception as a junior in 1982 to help Fresno State win the Pacific Coast Athletic Association championship with an 11-1 overall record under Sweeney. After missing the 1983 season with a hamstring injury, James had 68 tackles as a senior in 1984 and added another interception.
After college, James and his wife Karen had three children - Chris, April and Donavon who all grew up in Fresno and attended Clovis West.
Chris originally signed with Miami, but ended up enrolling at Fresno State in the fall of 2006 when he redshirted. As a senior in 2010, Chris recorded 14 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while helping the Bulldog go 8-5.
The next year, 2011, is when Donavon enrolled at Fresno State for his freshman season. A promising young player, Donavon played in every game as a true freshman and even made two starts at defensive end.
Donavon's role on the team has greatly increased over his career, and now he is entering his senior season looking to go out with a bang. Over his first three years, Lewis has recorded 93 tackles, 23.0 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks.
Having helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back Mountain West championships, Lewis is hungry for more.
"I expect to win another championship as we have in the past," is what Lewis said he wants to accomplish his senior year. "That's the ultimate goal, win a championship and then after that hopefully win a bowl game."
His junior season ended on a strong note by recording two sacks in the Mountain West championship game victory over Utah State and a season-high six tackles in the Las Vegas Bowl vs. USC.
Despite standing out and matching his career-high for tackles in the 'Dogs bowl game, Lewis had a temporary setback to work through following the final game of the 2013 season.
"In January I had shoulder surgery," Lewis said. "So I missed a lot of 6 a.m.'s [morning workouts] and spring ball. This summer I had a lot of catching up to do, so I wanted to get in shape first and foremost and then I wanted to learn the playbook and get all that stuff down [again]. For me, it was just getting back in shape for the most part because I had been out for so long."
Now, two weeks into fall camp, Lewis feels that his conditioning work over the summer has paid off and that he is ready for a big season.
"Camp is going well, we're just preparing for USC and doing the things that we have to do to win the first game," Lewis said. "The defense is coming along well, a lot of the guys are returners, we're here working hard and everybody is older so the defense is not new to us anymore. It's normal for us to come out and do the same things we've done in the past."
Not only has Lewis worked to make himself better, but his presence makes those around him better. Defensive coordinator Nick Toth pointed out a big reason Ejiro Ederaine, the other outside linebacker opposite of Lewis, had an all-conference season last year was in part because of Lewis.
"Part of the reason Ejiro had the season he did - he worked hard and he did all the things he did individually - but on the other edge they are trying to block a guy named Donavon Lewis who does not get heralded very much, but there aren't a whole lot of people in this league who want to block Donavon Lewis on the edge," Toth said. "We put him opposite of Ejiro on all those situations that he is rushing the passer. So there are a lot of benefits to having Donavon there in the scheme and helping Ejiro out."
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