Sophomore cornerback Julius Lewis sat in TCU coach Gary Patterson’s office and had a choice laid out in front of him.
Keep sitting out the season, redshirting and getting ready for a full season next year.
He would only be playing six games — seven, tops, with a bowl. No promises, no guarantees, and no extra year.
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For Lewis, it was easy. He chose play.
Recovered unusually early from an Achilles injury in January that had TCU believing he would need to miss the season, Lewis started last week against West Virginia and reclaimed the spot he earned as a freshman.
It was like a feel of confidence. As one of the guys said to me: ‘Physical, cares, smart.’
TCU coach Gary Patterson, on the return of cornerback Julius Lewis
His return gives Patterson and the Horned Frogs the cornerback pairing they expected all along — Lewis and Ranthony Texada — and a boost as the second half of the season continues with Saturday’s game against Texas Tech and the nation’s top-ranked offense.
“It was like a feel of confidence,” Patterson said, remembering Lewis’ first practice two weeks ago. “As one of the guys said to me: ‘Physical, cares, smart.’ ”
Which has been Lewis’ reputation for a long time. At Mansfield High School, he was a fast, yet physical running back for three years. Asked to move to cornerback as a senior, he took to it like “a natural” and excelled, said his high school coach, Daniel Maberry.
“He’s always been an extreme competitor,” said Maberry, a former longtime Mansfield assistant hired as head coach this year. “He wants to be on the field. He wants to be out there competing. He’s probably one of the best competitors that I’ve been around. He wants to win, he wants to contribute, he wants to be part of something bigger than himself. I’ve seen that all the way from when he was a freshman to now that he’s at TCU.”
As a high school junior, Julius Lewis was a 1,400-yard running back and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. As a senior, he moved to defense and was rated the sixth-best cornerback in the state by Scout.com.
Patterson does not always leave such a choice to a player. But the Frogs rank eighth in the Big 12 in pass defense. They haven’t had an interception from a cornerback in 21 games. Patterson tried receiver Deanté Gray at corner for a game this year. During the bye week, he demoted starter Jeff Gladney for a practice.
Frankly, TCU needed Lewis.
“Yeah, we need to get better at that position, and I gave him a choice,” Patterson said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Julius, you’re back.’ It was his redshirt. But you still have six games to play and possibly a bowl game, and the only way to get there is if we play better at that position. Julius cares about TCU, he cares about this team. That in its own self makes him better.”
If someone had asked Maberry, he would have said his former player is a quick healer. But this quick?
“We saw him a few weeks ago and he said he thought he was going to have a chance to be back before the end of the season,” Maberry said. “I was dang, that’s pretty impressive to come back from that injury and have an opportunity to play this year. I was in shock. I didn’t think there was any chance he would play this year. I will say this, since I’ve known him, he’s been able to fight through some injuries. I don’t know what it is about him.”
Whatever it is, TCU can use it.
TCU vs. Texas Tech
2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2
Head to head
TCU (4-3, 2-2)
Texas Tech (3-4, 1-3)
3rd conv. %
3rd conv. defense %