USC Wednesday announced the death of David Lewis, an All-Conference outside linebacker who played a key role in the Trojans’ comeback win over Notre Dame in their 1974 national championship season.
Lewis, who was also a key member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 1979 team that reached the NFC title game, died on Tuesday in Tampa, Florida. He was 65 and had struggled with health issues in recent years, according to Tim Tessalone, USC’s sports information director.
Lewis, who also played for the San Diego Chargers in 1982 and Los Angeles Rams in 1983, was a three-year (1974-76) letterman at USC. He came to the Trojans after playing football at Lincoln High in San Diego and San Diego City College.
After the Trojans won the national crown in 1974, they were runners-up in the polls in 1976 when Lewis was an All-Pac-8 first team pick. In 1975, he led USC in tackles, tackles for loss and fumble recoveries. He was on USC teams that won a pair of Rose Bowls (1975 and 1977) and the 1975 Liberty Bowl.
In the 1974 game versus Notre Dame, in which the Trojans trailed 24-0 just prior to halftime before scoring 55 unanswered points, Lewis’ tackle of Irish kick returner Mark McLane at the 8-yard line, minutes after USC’s Anthony Davis returned the second half’s opening kickoff for a touchdown, helped turn the game around.
Lewis was the second-round pick by the Buccaneers in the 1977 NFL Draft and spent five years (1977-81) with the team.
The 1979 Tampa Bay squad notched 10 regular season victories after having won just seven games in the franchise’s previous three seasons. The team captured the NFC Central Division title and won the first playoff game in franchise history before falling in the NFC Championship Game.
After his pro football career, Lewis had a long career as a high school football coach, including as the head coach at Tampa Catholic High (1986-90), where he remained on staff until his death.
Lewis is survived by his wife and a daughter, and predeceased by a son.
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