AMES — When Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell first took over the Cyclone program, he looked for players who fit his mold.
Dedicated players who worked hard and took coaching well.
Walk-on safety Braxton Lewis stood out since the first winter workout.
“His work ethic and what he’s put into it, he’s one of the hardest working people in our football program,” Campbell said. “He shows up every day. How he carries himself, how he works, what his intangibles are — I think we all thought that this guy was really impressive.”
Lewis is one of those guys who has capitalized on every opportunity.
“That was the transition from the old coaching staff to the new one,” Lewis said. “It was an opportunity for me to prove myself.”
And he’s done that. In Campbell’s first season, Lewis mostly played on special teams. Last season, he played on special teams and a little bit at safety. In the Liberty Bowl, he started for suspended safety Kamari Cotton-Moya.
“Halfway through last season everything started clicking for me,” Lewis said. “That’s when you saw me getting in more.”
This season, he forced himself into a starting safety spot.
“He’s one of the most trusted players in our program,” Campbell said. “His work ethic — he overachieves in everything he does. He’s a guy that demands himself to be played because of his work ethic. He’s a guy that I want our program to be about and stand for. His work ethic, his consistency, his ability to come to work every day — that ultimately allows him to make the plays he makes.”
And Lewis has made plays. He recorded an interception in three straight games — against Akron, TCU and Oklahoma State. Against West Virginia last Saturday, Lewis tied for the team-high in tackles with eight and he had a sack.
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The eight tackles were a career-high. He’s also the second leading tackler on the team with 38.
Lewis was the orchestrator of Iowa State’s new turnover belt — a play off Miami’s turnover chain.
Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock is an old school coach. He’s not in to all of the turnover belts and chains and robes.
“I just think it’s important that our guys work hard to get attempts,” Heacock said. “You can’t get turnovers without attempts. That’s the stuff that’s important to me and I think the other stuff is fun for the players. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issues with it, but the actual part of getting the turnover takes a lot of work.”
He has a pretty simplistic view of the WWE-style belt.
“If somebody is handing one of our guys a belt coming off the field, that means we did something good,” Heacock said. “That’s all good with me, trust me.”
Campbell already has had conversations with Lewis, a redshirt junior, about getting him on scholarship at the first available opportunity.
“Once we get (a scholarship), Braxton is certainly the first guy on the list that deserves that opportunity,” Campbell said. “He’s a guy, as soon as we’ve gotten the opportunity to reward him, he’s a guy that deserves it and is playing as good and as consistent as anybody on our football team.
“He’s a guy that defines what our football program is about. When you get your opportunities, you continue to maximize them.”
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