Clovis News: Sports

Bulldog football is family tradition for Clovis West star Lewis

Something always pulled Donovan Lewis toward Fresno State -- just as it did before with his brother, Chris, and father, James.

Maybe the allure came from hearing his father recount his glory days and how Fresno State finished 11-1 during his first season.

Or perhaps it came from watching games at Bulldog Stadium the past five seasons, with his brother developing into a starter and Fresno State going head-to-head with big-name opponents each year.

Whatever the driving force, a family tradition is set to continue. Donovan is expected to sign a letter of intent with Fresno State on national signing day Wednesday.

"I'm ready to be a Bulldog," said Donovan, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive end out of Clovis West High who is expected to headline a class of about 15 players. "I've been ready for a while."

The Lewis legacy began in 1982, when James Lewis played linebacker for then-coach Jim Sweeney.

Chris, also a defensive end, came along next. He signed with Miami in spring 2006 as one of California's more sought-after recruits. But he had a change of heart before summer workouts and by fall had transferred to Fresno State.

By the time Donovan is expected to finish his career, the legacy will have included 13 playing seasons and spanned four decades.

"You know what the players always say: 'Bulldog born. Bulldog bred,' " James Lewis said. "It's kind of a humbling experience to have both of your sons wanting to go to the same school that you went to, especially when they had opportunities to play elsewhere.

"Fresno State is just what they know. It's what they've been around their whole lives. I guess it's like fulfilling a prophecy."

The Lewis men all said that James and Chris played only a small role in Donovan's recruiting, not once trying to sell Fresno State to him but instead serving as impartial resources.

"At the end of the day," James said, "he's the one who was going to have to live with the decision, so he needed to make it for himself."

Donovan turned down offers from Nevada, San Jose State and Washington State to keep the legacy alive. He initially wanted to go away for college and the idea of playing in the Pac-10 for Washington State and with Clovis West alum Jeff Tuel, now the Cougars' starting quarterback, was appealing.

But after visiting all three out-of-area programs, then taking his official visit to Fresno State, Donovan said none of the others excited him as much as the idea of playing before his hometown fans.

"Fresno State was the first school to offer me a scholarship, during my junior year, and they've always made me feel welcomed whenever I was on campus," Donovan said. "It just felt right. I thought this was the best chance to get playing time and have a good college experience."

Donovan added that Fresno State's pending departure from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West by fall 2012 also played a key role in his decision.

In Donovan, Fresno State lands a speedy pass rusher and Clovis West's career sacks leader. Coincidently, Donovan, who finished with 25, broke the record of 221/2 sacks that was owned by Chris for five years.

Big brother, however, is quick to provide a disclaimer. While Donovan stayed healthy most of his career, Chris suffered a triceps injury that sidelined him for three games his senior year.

"Lets just say that if we ever had a chance to play on the same team, he'd be my backup," Chris said jokingly.

Nonetheless, Chris said he strongly believes Donovan could make an immediate impact for Fresno State.

The incoming freshman projects as a possible replacement for 2010 WAC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Carter, who served as Donovan's player host during the official campus visit.

"I know what the coaches are looking for, and I know what they've got coming back," Chris Lewis said. "If he works hard, he's got a shot to play.

"He brings good pass-rush ability and he's a smart player. Whatever the coaches say, he'll be able to process that and put it to action."

Donovan said he's honored to play for the same school as his father and brother.

His goal, he said, is to proudly represent the Lewis legacy and be a difference maker for the Bulldogs.

"They did save the best Lewis for last," Donovan kidded. "I can't wait to start playing for them."

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