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Miami Welcomes Return Of Defensive Star Damione Lewis

Miami Welcomes Return Of Defensive Star Damione Lewis

Oct. 24, 2000

By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Damione Lewis feels like he’s been preparing forthe Tour de France.

Rehabbing from a broken foot, Lewis’ workouts the last three weeks haveconsisted mostly of riding an exercise bike. Now he’s healthy and ready tocarry Miami’s defense through the remainder of the season and possibly into thenational championship game.

“It’s been frustrating,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I’m used to being in on theaction. It’s tough being on a bicycle. I thought I was practicing to be LanceArmstrong or something.

“But being out three weeks gave my body a long while to heal.”

Lewis, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle, broke his right foot againstWashington on Sept. 9. He tried to play the following week against WestVirginia, but was ineffective – especially for him.

The senior from Sulphur Springs, Texas, had just one tackle.

Lewis spent the majority of the next two weeks with his foot in a cast,getting out just in time to play against Florida State. After a two-tackleperformance in the win over the Seminoles, he went back to the sidelines forthe two weeks.

Now, he says he’s ready to get back on the field Saturday night when No. 4Miami (5-1) plays host to Louisiana Tech (2-6).

“I know I’m going to be rusty,” he said.

His return couldn’t come at a better time, his teammates say, especiallywith No. 2 Virginia Tech in town a week from Saturday for a game with Big Eastand possible national title implications.

“We finally get our leader back,” defensive end Matt Walters said. “Hereally keeps our emotions running high all the time, plus he’s an awesomeplayer. We’re looking forward to getting him back on the field.”

Lewis, a second-team All-Big East selection last season, led the Hurricanesin sacks with 6 1/2. He has just one this year. His absence was magnified becauseof a host of other injuries and shuffling along the defensive line.

Senior Adrian Wilson was kicked off the team last month for repeatedlyviolating team rules. Jamaal Green was suspended for the first two games.Quincy Hipps and Jevon Rhodes missed significant action with injuries.

To top it off, Clint Hurtt was moved from defensive line to offensive line.

So Miami was forced to rely on sophomores William Joseph and Walters andnewcomers Cornelius Green and Santonio Thomas.

“We’ve gone through quite a bit,” Walters said. “I’ve had to play a wholelot more than I thought I would. But it’s worked out well. It’s been nice forsome of the young guys to get to play.”

The Hurricanes rank 45th in the nation in total defense and 24th in scoringdefense. They think they can improve those numbers, especially with Lewis backin the lineup.

“He’s got to be an integral part of the defense,” Miami coach Butch Davissaid. “He’s a terrific run player, and excellent pass rusher. He’s a hugeleader, a guy that you count on making plays. We need him desperately.”