In this Dec. 8, 2006, photo, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL football player David Lewis shakes hands while joking with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden, right, after a Bucs practice in Tampa, Fla. Former Bucs nose tackle Randy Crowder is at far left. Former Bucs defensive player Johnny Ray Smith is at rear, second from left. Lewis, a key member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 1979 team that reached the NFC title game, has died. He was 65. Lewis died Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Tampa. The cause was not immediately known, but he had struggled with health issues in recent years, according to Southern California, where he played in college. (Carrie Pratt/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
In this Dec. 8, 2006, photo, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL football player David Lewis shakes hands while joking with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden, right, after a Bucs practice in Tampa, Fla. Former Bucs nose tackle Randy Crowder is at far left. Former Bucs defensive player Johnny Ray Smith is at rear, second from left. Lewis, a key member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 1979 team that reached the NFC title game, has died. He was 65. Lewis died Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Tampa. The cause was not immediately known, but he had struggled with health issues in recent years, according to Southern California, where he played in college. (Carrie Pratt/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — David Lewis, a key member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 1979 team that reached the NFC title game, has died. He was 65.

Lewis died Tuesday in Tampa. The cause was not immediately known, but he had struggled with health issues in recent years, according to Southern California, where he played in college.

He was a second-round pick at outside linebacker by the Buccaneers in 1977 and played for them until 1981, including an appearance in the 1980 Pro Bowl.

Lewis was among the defensive stars on the 1979 team that reached the NFC title game, capping the franchise’s “worst to first” transformation. The Bucs won 10 games that year after having won just seven in the franchise’s previous three seasons.

Lewis also played for the San Diego Chargers in 1982 and Los Angeles Rams in 1983.

After leaving the NFL, Lewis began a long prep coaching career. He coached at Tampa Catholic High from 1986-90, compiling a 33-19 record and winning a district title. He still served on the Crusaders staff at his death, working mostly from a golf cart in recent years.

“As talented as he was on the football field, David’s legacy here in the Tampa Bay area will be remembered more for the impact he made on so many young men as a football coach at Tampa Catholic following his NFL career,” the Bucs said in a statement.

At USC, Lewis lettered from 1974-76, having previously played at San Diego City College. As a senior, he was an All-Pac-8 first-team selection. As a junior, he led USC in tackles (90). Lewis played on USC teams that won the Rose Bowl in 1975 and 1977.

He made a game-changing play in USC's comeback win over Notre Dame in 1974, when they won the national championship. USC trailed 24-0 just before halftime, and then scored 55 consecutive points for the win. Lewis' hit on Irish kick returner Mark McLane at the 8-yard line on the second half's opening kickoff helped turn the game around.

He is survived by his wife and a daughter. His son preceded him in death.

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