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Former USC, Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB David Lewis dies at 65

July 15 (UPI) -- Former Pro Bowl linebacker David Lewis, who was a key member of the 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that reached the NFC Championship Game, has died, the franchise announced Wednesday. He was 65.

Lewis died Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., according to USC, where he played college football. The school said his cause of death wasn't immediately known, but he struggled with health issues in recent years.

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Lewis, an All-Conference outside linebacker at USC, was a three-year letterman (1974-76) at the school, having previously played at San Diego City College. After the Trojans won the national title in 1974, Lewis led the team in tackles (90) and fumble recoveries (four) during his junior season. He was on USC teams that won two Rose Bowls (1975, 1977) and the 1975 Liberty Bowl.

The Buccaneers selected Lewis in the second round of the 1977 NFL Draft. He played for the franchise until 1981, making an appearance in the 1980 Pro Bowl.

Lewis was among the defensive stars on the 1979 Bucs team that advanced to the NFC title game, which marked a significant turning point for the franchise. The Buccaneers won 10 games that year after winning only seven in the organization's previous three seasons.

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Lewis also had one-year stints with the then-San Diego Chargers (1982) and Los Angeles Rams (1983).

After his time in the NFL, Lewis transitioned to coaching and had a long career at the prep level. He coached at Tampa Catholic High from 1986-90, compiling a 33-19 record and capturing a district title. He still served on the Crusaders' coaching staff at the time of his death.

"David was a key member of our defense that played a major role in our success during that special 1979 season," the Buccaneers said in a statement Wednesday.

"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. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Bonnie, and the entire Lewis family."

Lewis is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and a daughter, Brianna. He was predeceased by his son, Brian.

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