Senator linebacker’s quiet demeanor belies his toughness on the field
The comment by then President Theodore Roosevelt was part of his “Big Stick” ideology, and it fits Carson High junior linebacker Ikela Lewis perfectly.
Lewis, the Senators’ 6-foot 175-pound outside linebacker, speaks so softly you have to lean forward to hear him at times. His cerebral demeanor off the field belies the rough-and-tumble position he plays.
On the football field, however, his play speaks volumes. He has delivered big hit after big hit in helping the Senators to the regular-season Sierra League championship and an 8-2 record.
Entering Friday’s regional semifinal game at home against Reno, Lewis has 85 tackles, a sack, two fumble recoveries, three caused fumbles and three hurries.
“He fits that (quote) to a T,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “He’s very physical and has a great motor. He’s a helluva linebacker.
“He’s played very well for us. He has a knack for being in the right place. He has a very high football IQ. He can take what he sees on film to the field. That is one of his big strengths. He has the ability to go out and diagnose a play, which isn’t the easiest thing to learn. He’s very coachable because of his maturity level. He’s a smart kid. He is real mature for his age. He gets the big picture.”
Make no mistake about it, Lewis loves the game and he plays it with passion, but by no means does it define who he is as a person like it does some of his teammates. He knows football is just a game, and it’s a piece of who he is right now. He appreciates how a game like football can bring people together no matter how insignificant it’s in the grand scheme of things. He appreciates how the community rallies around the team.
When he was asked who his favorite professional athlete was, Lewis mentioned Shaun Alexander, the former Seattle Seahawk running back, and 2005 NFL MVP.
“I like the way he went about his business,” said Lewis of Alexander, who rushed for more than 9,400 yards in his career before his career ended at age 31. “I like the way he carried himself. He was a tremendous player and so much more. He was a great player, and he didn’t let that change him.”
Alexander, after his retirement from the game, got involved in some charity work, and the past five years he’s spent home schooling his seven kids back in Virginia. He stresses faith and not getting caught up in material things, which impressed Lewis.
Alexander went through a series of changes after his NFL career ended, and Lewis has had to undergo some changes, namely a position switch midway through this season.
Lewis started the season at “Will” linebacker, and when senior quarterback-linebacker Nolan Shine was moved over to defense full time, Lewis was shifted to “Sam” linebacker and Shine went back to his old “Will” spot. It was a move that helped the defense immensely. In the last four games, Carson’s starting defense hasn’t allowed a TD in 14 quarters. Reserves gave up a fourth-quarter TD in each of the blowout wins over Douglas and McQueen.
“We moved Nolan to “Will” because that’s where he played last year,” Roman said. “That was a natural fit for Nolan. Ikela was doing a great job, averaging 10-12 tackles a game. He is still averaging 6 to 8 tackles a game. It (the Sam linebacker) is not as active a position.”
Lewis admitted there was a little learning curve switching positions.
“At outside, you have to wait a second before you take off,” Lewis said. “The whole thing about ‘Sam’ is that you can’t let anybody get outside of you. That is why you have to wait. At “Will” you can just read and take off.
“I think it’s worked out much better (for the team). Nolan is so insanely aggressive. You can’t be as aggressive at the other spot.”
Lewis admits he would love to move back inside next year since both Shine and Gerardo Lobato graduate in the spring. However, he’s first and foremost a team player. It’s not in his DNA to put himself ahead of what might be best for the team.
“It is hard to say,” Roman said. “We’ve discussed it. He could play any three of the linebacker spots, and that’s a nice luxury to have. We’ll do what’s best for the defense.”
Lewis’ outstanding play isn’t confined to just defense. He is on kick-off return and kick-off coverage units, and he also sees action on punt coverage and punt return. He blocked a punt against Spanish Springs back on Sept. 19 which led to a Carson score. Unfortunately, the Senators dropped a 28-27 decision to the Cougars, their only loss to a Northern Nevada team this season.
“That really gave us momentum,” Roman said after that game.
Lewis is one of several regulars who have big roles on special teams. The others are Asa Carter, Shine and Brady Rivera.
“I like it,” Lewis said. “It’s more time on the field for me; more playing time.”
And, the more time Lewis spends on the field, the better Carson is.