By Nick Snow
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – Sometimes it’s just a nod, a hand signal or even just one word. Even with 60,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs, it doesn’t take much to get the point across for Oklahoma State senior linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey.
That’s how familiar they are with each other.
“We’ve had enough reps with each other, we know what each other is doing, so it makes it a lot easier to know what my job is based on what Shaun and Ryan (Simmons) are doing,” Lavey said. “That camaraderie and togetherness of our defense makes it a lot easier to play and do our jobs.”
Ever since the two first set foot on the field together, it’s almost like they’ve had a sixth sense – barely having to look at each other to know what the other was thinking.
Sure, they still go through the motions of hand signals, but it’s really more for the team’s and coaches’ benefit than their own. If it were up to them, they might not even need it.
“We definitely have to communicate out there,” Lavey said. “Communicating is vital for a defense like ours. It makes communication easier. We know what each other is saying, we know what signals we’re giving each other and we can easily talk to each other out there. In that fact, we definitely can communicate, we know what each other is saying and easy for us to communicate out there.”
It’s that ability to communicate that helped Oklahoma State create five turnovers Saturday against Kansas State, including a key interception by Lewis that helped the Cowboys hold on for a 33-29 win over the Wildcats.
“We got a lot of guys with experience out there,” said Lewis, who was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week with eight tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. “What we emphasize is doing your job. Whatever your job is, you do it. Then you go make the play and go give phenomenal effort.”
Experience and effort may be the keys to the duo’s success this season, but it’s also the bond they share that makes them arguably two of the best linebackers in the Big 12.
“I love playing with Shaun,” Lavey said. “I’ve been playing with him for three years now. He’s my best friend. He was the first one to come up to me and hug me after I got my pick and I was screaming down the sideline to go celebrate with him after his pick.”
And while they may be best of friends off the field, it’s their similar competitive drive on the field that makes them such a challenge for opponents.
Like any good friends, Lavey said they don’t always agree with each other or the plays being called. But they’ve learned to work through those differences and focus on one common goal – keeping the opposing team out of the end zone.
“There’s no other way to approach the defensive side of the ball,” Lewis said. “That’s the mentality any defense should have. As a defense, you want to keep the opponents’ offense out of the end zone, create turnovers and get the offense the ball back. That’s our motto and that’s what we live by.
“We want that (pressure). It’s never been like that before. If we have to win a game 3-0, we have to do it.”