Panther linebacker primed to follow in the footsteps of former program greats

Panthers linebacker Sage lewis talks to reporters after the third spring football practice at FIU Modesto A. Maidique Campus on Thursday, March 8, 2018. (Samuel Navarro/Panther Press)

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director



Linebacker Sage Lewis is next in line to take over as the next great defender for the FIU Panthers.

Going into his redshirt junior season, he possesses the most experience throughout the linebacking position and might be one of the most physically talented players on the roster.

A year ago, linebackers Anthony Wint and Treyvon Williams were the top tacklers on the team and were also the leaders of the defense.

“Being I’m the only returning experienced linebacker, there’s been a lot of teaching involved,” Lewis said. “But for me right now, it’s all about patience. Working with everyone and trying to be that leader for this defense.”

With their departure, Lewis is primed to step in and assume their role.

In the first game of the season against Indiana, Lewis tied former linebacker Keyonvis Bouie for fifth all-time in single-game tackles with 18 total tackles.

The following game against Old Dominion he continued his success by having another game with double-digit tackles.

Beyond just last season, the Panthers have been home to a couple of defensive studs such as safety and all-time leading tackler, Johnathan Cyprien and former NFL linebacker Antwan Barnes.

Cyprien was the highest draft choice ever for the Panthers being selected with the 33rd pick in 2013 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Barnes was a fourth-round pick in the 2007 draft and went on to have a solid eight-year NFL career.

Lewis could potentially follow in their footsteps and be the next Panther defender to make it to the professional level.

Along with Lewis, senior Fermin Silva and freshman Rocky Jacques-Louis have been called on to help ease the transition for the linebacking position.

In his previous three seasons, Silva has mainly played defensive end for the Panthers. The Miami Central High graduate led the team in sacks the last two season with 5.0 in 2016 and 7.0 in 2017.

Jacques-Louis surprised many people as the freshman out of Dunbar High in Ft. Myers, Fla., came on to the team and had immediate success in training camp. As a senior in high school, he recorded 95 tackles, 26 sacks and one fumble recovery.

The freshman linebacker has started the last three games for the Panthers and is transitioning well to the college level. In his first-ever collegiate game against the Hoosiers, he recorded five tackles.  

“I’ve been blessed, I’ve had a lot of great linebackers. From Ray Lewis to Dan Morgan to Jonathan Vilma, to some of the players I had at North Carolina, they were all spectacular. They could make all the calls. They were like coaches in the huddle,” said head coach Butch Davis on his past success at developing the position.

Ray Lewis went on to be inducted into the NFL Hall-of-Fame, while Morgan and Vilma went on to have Pro Bowl careers.

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