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BILL LEWIS: Former Georgia Tech head coach and Dolphins assistant always respected ND

Matt Puglisi | Friday, April 22, 2005

For assistant defensive head coach and defensive backs coach Bill Lewis, the decision to return to college football after nine years as a defensive backs coach with the Miami Dolphins was a no-brainer.

“[There are] two reasons why I came back,” Lewis said. “One was coach [Charlie] Weis. The second reason was Notre Dame. I was 32 years in college coaching, and Notre Dame was always one of the few programs that I just had a tremendous amount of respect for.

“The combination of Charlie calling me and asking me if I was interested in Notre Dame – it was a very easy decision for me to make.”

It wasn’t just the three Super Bowl rings on Weis’ fingers that lured Lewis away from the NFL.

“Number one is I think he is a caring person,” Lewis said. “Coach Weis cares about people. That’s important for me to know that I’m working for a man that cares about the people that he’s surrounded by – players and coaches.”

After graduating from East Stroudsburg State in 1963, Lewis wasted little time beginning his lengthy coaching career, immediately signing on as quarterbacks, receivers and secondary coach at his alma mater.

He held assistant positions at Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Arkansas before getting hired as head coach at Wyoming in 1977. Lewis went on to be head coach at East Carolina, where he was named national coach of the year in 1991, and Georgia Tech. Prior to going to East Carolina, Lewis was the defensive coordinator at Georgia from 1981-1988.

While Weis and Lewis first met during Lewis’ stint with Georgia – Weis was coaching at South Carolina at the time – it wasn’t until Weis’ New England Patriots and Lewis’ Dolphins were regularly locking horns in the AFC East that the two coaches became more familiar with each other.

“[The relationship] came over the last nine years,” Lewis said. “Both of us were in the AFC East, and we competed against each other a minimum of two times a year. We developed a friendship as competing coaches, and I developed a tremendous admiration and respect for Charlie because of the offenses we had to line up against and attempt to stop.”

While the past 39 years have brought Lewis a wealth of experience and praise, he points not to rings or trophies as his most significant career accomplishments, but instead to the relationships he’s cultivated.

“I think that the thing I pride myself in the most is having players that I’ve worked with come back and thank me for having worked with them,” Lewis said. “Most of that has come from college players that have gone on into other careers in football and beyond football. … to have them come back and thank you and see them going on to better careers and being successful.”

If the past is any indication, don’t be surprised if quite a few current Notre Dame players pay Lewis a visit after their playing days are done.