Oct. 22, 2013
By Aimee Dulebohn, MSU Athletic Communications Intern
When asked for the one word he would use to describe himself, senior strong safety Isaiah Lewis claims "unpredictable."
The answer is ironic with the fact that most plays Lewis is in on for Michigan State football can be highly erratic. However, one thing is for sure - from his viewpoint in the backfield, he can see all that lies ahead.
"Being back there, you can see everything on the field," said Lewis, who is on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive back. "Jumping up and making hard hits, we get a little bit more room than everyone else to get our speed and get our legs under us. I love making those hard hits and if they go deep, we're back there to pick the ball off. Just being able to shut down a team of receivers and being able to be a part of all aspects of the defense, I love being able to do everything."
For the past four years, Lewis has had the privilege to play on one of the top defenses in the country. Only Alabama has been able to match the Spartans top-15 nationally ranked total, scoring, pass and rushing defense in 2011 and 2012.
"It means a lot to be on this defense," Lewis said. "I know we're one of the top defenses. That means a lot. That means teams have respect for you. When they game plan, they know they are going to have to work for what they get. They know we are going to give them a hard time doing it. I feel like that's what we do, we shut teams down. It feels good to be one of the starters of that kind of defense."
A native Indianapolis, Ind., the life-long safety never thought he would be in the position he's in for a team like the Spartans. After growing up with his eyes on the likes of Sean Taylor and Ed Reed, Lewis is in constant awe of where his life has taken him.
"When I was a little kid, I used to watch TV and see what guys were really good players and what defenses were good," said Lewis. "I loved watching Sean Taylor. That's my favorite player. I would watch everything he did. He was just around the ball doing everything, making all the plays and getting all the picks. I just wanted to be like him and play like him. I would never think I would be in a position like this, to be on one of the top defenses in the country. I just never thought I would be a part of that and have all the odds on us."
Despite the success that the Spartan defense has been able to achieve, Lewis seems to keep his most important asset, his head, in the right position.
"I always say to stay humble and hungry, just keep your head level," Lewis said. "People are always going to pat you on the back. But you can't get big-headed or cocky about it, you just have to stay humble. If you're a great player already, you don't have to do all that boasting about how good you are. Let your play speak for itself."
In 45 career games, Lewis has contributed nearly 200 tackles. What many may not know is that Lewis spends his time off the field still hitting, just on a different beat.
"A lot of people on the team know that I play the drums," he remarked. "I can play a drum set, but I mostly play the snare drum. I started doing that when I was 8 years old. I taught myself how to play, too. I kind of just freestyle. I've got my snare drum at my apartment here, so when I have free time, I will annoy my roommate and start to play my drum."
A top-five Indiana senior out of Ben Davis High School, Lewis entertained multiple coaches offering the best of the best for the commitment to their program. However, he claims there was something different about the Michigan State coaches and the atmosphere they had to offer.
"Coaches will talk to you when you're getting recruited and they all basically say the same thing," Lewis said. "But at the end of the day, you have to weed out who's being real and straight up with you. I felt like this was more of a family environment and that the coaches were speaking the truth to me."
The most important part about playing for the Spartans is not always the wins and losses or how many tackles and sacks were made against the conference rival. It means something bigger, something stronger, and something that will last beyond the playing field.
"It means family," said Lewis. "I feel like the players are my brothers. I relate to a lot of the people on the team and I'm really close with them. I'm really blessed to be at a school like this. It's a fun school to be at. The academics are really great. It's a perfect fit for me. I relate to a lot of players and coaches on the team. I'm going to miss being here. I don't have that much time left, but I'm going to miss being here. It's been really fun."
Without doubt, Lewis has been able to be in the Spartan uniform for some of the most historic games in Michigan State history. So many that even his game-winning interception against Michigan gets lost in the mix, but not before he can recount every yard ran on the return.
"There have been so many fun, close games," Lewis said. "My favorites though would be the Notre Dame game my freshman year (2010) and the Michigan game my sophomore year (2011). That game, I got a pick-six to basically finish the game out. It was the fourth quarter and Michigan was going down and they needed another drive. We were up 28-21, and Michigan needed to score. I got an interception and scored the touchdown and it felt so good to do that. It's our rival school and you just want to beat them. It just felt good to be that guy to do that. I never thought I would be doing anything like that."
Though Lewis stuns himself with what he's able to accomplish, it is what is still in store that the Spartan Nation is excited about. With his time at MSU ticking down and the rest of the football season still uncertain, Lewis has no choice but to keep his eyes on what lies ahead. Whether it be on the field, or finishing up his degree in psychology, Lewis will be have his sights set on everything that the future holds.
"I want to help keep guys going when times get hard and be that guy to stay up and keep things positive if things are going bad or good," said Lewis. "I just want to help everybody stay motivated to keep going. I want to be a playmaker and be that engine that keeps things running out there. That's what I want to do."
Getting to Know Isaiah Lewis
Favorite home-cooked meal...
"It's from my grandma when she makes collard greens, pork chops, corn bread or when she would make some corn beef."
Favorite class at MSU...
"It was an (Integrative Studies in Social Science) ISS class. The teacher was from India and he would tell us stories all the time. I just liked listening to his stories. I have never been out of the country, so I just liked hearing about what he did."
Did you know...
Lewis lettered as an outfielder and pitcher for the Ben Davis High School baseball team.
This feature was originally published in the Oct. 19 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.