"Hopefully after [Week 1], we can stop talking about my age and the story being about me."
That was 32-year-old Kent State head coach Sean Lewis before he nearly led the Golden Flashes to a win over Illinois on Saturday. Competing with a Big Ten team in his first game as the FBS' youngest head coach ensured his wish won't be granted anytime soon.
Sean Lewis was introduced as Kent State head coach in December. Lewis, then 31 years old, spent the last two season as Syracuse co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks and was only eight years removed from a job with a slightly smaller national profile than FBS head coach. He was offensive coordinator and in-school suspension supervisor for his alma mater, Harold L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Ill., from 2007-09.
"No, I pinch myself each morning when I walk in," he told HERO Sports last week when asked if he ever dreamed of being a 32-year-old FBS head coach. "Ten years ago I was on the south side of Chicago at Oak Lawn Richards High School leading in-school suspension."
Lewis, a former Wisconsin player, was tight ends coach at Nebraska-Omaha in 2010, grad assistant at Akron in 2011, and, from 2012-13, receivers coach and tight ends coach at Eastern Illinois, where he linked up with Dino Babers, whom he followed to Bowling Green (2014-15) and Syracuse, where he led a fast-paced offense that averaged nearly 90 plays per game in 2017.
Kent State's offense isn't as fast, but they were still productive in Saturday's game, scoring 24 points on a Memorial Stadium field where Lewis played in both high school and college.
"We got our ass kicked, They beat the hell out of us,” he said Richards’ 41-0 loss to Providence Catholic High School in the 2001 Class 6A state championship. “I was a sophomore and we had a senior quarterback I was splitting time with. I warmed up on the sideline for two quarters and didn’t get in the game.”
Four years later, Lewis was on a Badgers team that beat Illinois in Champaign, 41-27. And on Saturday, he almost guided Kent State — a program who's barely shown a pulse since the 11-win 2012 — to their first win over a Power Five team since 2007. And in doing so, the 32-year-old Golden Flashes' head coach sabotaged his own wish.
While we will talk about Woody Barrett, Antwan Dixon, Mike Carrigan and all the Kent State players who played well in the 31-24 loss, we will not stop talking about Sean Lewis and his age.