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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 8 Darryll Lewis

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Cornerback, 1987-1990

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, in 1990. … Was also a consensus All-American as a senior. … Was selected the Pac-10 co-Defensive Player of the Year, with Washington defensive tackle Steve Emtman, in 1990.

Why he made our list: Darryll Lewis started 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 1987 — at running back — and coach Dick Tomey at the time called him “our best all-around back.” The coaches, especially secondary coach Duane Akina, also saw something else in Lewis, moving him to cornerback in 1988.

“He was a spectacular competitor,” Tomey said this month. “He made play after play.”

“D-Lew” wasn’t a blazer, but he was plenty tough at 5 feet 9 and 186 pounds, excelling in bump-and-run-coverage.

“I told our guys, I don’t want the ball thrown on the same side of the field as Darryll Lewis,” Washington State coach Mike Price said in a 1990 USA Today story.

He said that a few weeks after Lewis had defeated UCLA with a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute, lifting the Wildcats to a 28-21 win in Pasadena. Bruins quarterback Tommy Maddox had been trying to connect with split end Reggie Moore along the sideline.

Lewis’ overall performance in the third game of the season was even more remarkable. He intercepted two passes, returning one 52 yards for a touchdown, and made the game-saving tackle in a 22-17 victory over Oregon.

On a fourth-and-goal play from the 1, Ducks quarterback Bill Musgrave rolled to his right and made a dash for the corner of the end zone. Lewis came from the back of the end zone, and leveled a hit on Musgrave that turned the quarterback sideways and out of bounds inside the 1.

“It’s absolutely the last play of the game, it’s absolutely do or die … I mean, what a play,” Tomey said.

(Check out both game-winning plays in the video below.)

Lewis led the Pac-10 with seven interceptions that season, also ranking fourth in punt returns with a 10.0-yard average. His 14 career interceptions rank fifth in school history. He was the second first-team AP All-American in school history.

Life after college: The Houston Oilers selected Lewis in the second round, No. 38 overall, in the 1991 NFL draft. He spent 10 seasons in the league, including eight with the Oilers, leading the franchise in interceptions for five consecutive seasons (1994-98). Lewis, who was chosen to the 1995 Pro Bowl, spent the last two years of his career with San Diego. He signed with Denver in April 2001 but was released a month later because of a knee problem.

He started 95 of his 141 games in the NFL, picking off 32 passes, five of which he returned for touchdowns.

Lewis began a coaching career, and was hired in March 2003 to coach the Oregon State defensive backs. He resigned two months later, with the school citing personal reasons.

Lewis, in February 2006, pleaded no contest to felony counts of evading arrest and possession of methamphetamine, and to misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent. The charges stemmed from a high-speed car chase in San Diego. Lewis was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.

Arizona’s top 50

No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley

No. 49 — Hubie Oliver

No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski

No. 47 — Jim Donarski

No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter

No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin

No. 44 — John Fina

No. 43 — Glenn Parker

No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson

No. 41 — Marcus Bell

No. 40 — Fred W. Enke

No. 39 — Ka’Deem Carey

No. 38 — Juron Criner

No. 37 — Dana Wells

No. 36 — Tom Tunnicliffe

No. 35 — Bruce Hill

No. 34 — Chuck Osborne

No. 33 — Brandon Sanders

No. 32 — Sean Harris

No. 31 — Mike Thomas

No. 30 — Bobby Wade

No. 29 — T Bell

No. 28 — Joe Salave’a

No. 27 — Eddie Wilson

No. 26 — Chuck Levy

No. 25 — Allan Durden

No. 24 — Nick Foles

No. 23 — Tony Bouie

No. 22 — ‘King Kong’ Nolan

No. 21 — Bill Lueck

No. 20 — Walter “Hoss” Nielsen

No. 19 — Trung Canidate

No. 18 — Mark Arneson

No. 17 — Chris Singleton

No. 16 — Mike Dawson

No. 15 — Max Zendejas

No. 14 — Dennis Northcutt

No. 13 — Jackie Wallace

No. 12 — Antoine Cason

No. 11 — Vance Johnson

No. 10 — Lance Briggs

No. 9 — Byron Evans

In the video below, Lewis’ interception return for a touchdown vs. UCLA starts at 1:02, and his hit on Bill Musgrave starts around the 5:40 mark:

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