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W&L's Coach Malcom Lewis - 100th win

Various media outlets reported last week that Malcolm Lewis, in his 14th year at the helm of the Washington and Lee football program, would be seeking his 100th win at Mathews. When asked about it, he largely demurred or slipped into coach speak.

“I kinda thought it was some time last year. This is really about the kids and the community anyway,” he said. That was all well and good, of course, for a man who has mastered the coaching arts should be well versed in how to work an interview. Mac Lewis was not going to be let off so easily this time.        

As it turned out, the 50-0 shellacking that the Eagles put on Mathews (heck, it was 50-0 at the half!) was, in fact, Lewis’ 103rd victory. The signature 100th win had come in the first round of the playoffs last year courtesy of a 19-14 nail biter over King William. Talk of such a milestone might have deflected from the team’s focus during the playoff push, so perhaps it’s just as well that the bean counters were a few legumes off.

What, though, does the triple digit win total really mean to the former art teacher who is just as comfortable in a philosophical discussion among intellectuals pondering the relative state of mankind’s destiny in today’s world as he is surrounded by a posse of football fanatics breaking down the Wildcat offense?

First, he leans back in his chair and lets out a good sigh. Then he points out how frustrating it is to have to talk about himself, especially in light of the great kids, past and present, on the team, the coaches who have been with him for years, and the simple truth that win totals just don’t tell the story of why he coaches, and what he really thinks he has accomplished in nearly a decade and a half.

“Look,” he says as he always does when he wants to be emphatic, “when you win games, the kids buy in. Wins earn credibility and with credibility, we as coaches have the ability to really, truly have an impact on a kid. It means something to play football for W&L and I want it to continue to mean something because…” Here he pauses, searching for the words to describe something intrinsic within him which perhaps he has never been coaxed to articulate before. “I don’t have the words. I just hope that the hard work we’ve put in here leaves a lasting impression. I believe in the kids having a lined practice field when they show up on time to practice every day. I believe in having first-rate turf and nice jerseys for homecoming [the 3-0 Eagles will be wearing new jerseys replete with names on the back for homecoming versus Northampton this week] and outworking the other teams. Is that the answer you’re looking for?”

Perhaps it is. How does a genuine native son put his journey into perspective? The man grew up idolizing the blue and gold while his older brothers took their turn on the gridiron. Lewis himself played on the state runner-up squad in 1979. He coached against (and defeated) W&L during a stint with Middlesex after college. And then, he returned to the place that had meant so much to him and carved out a slot in the annals of Westmoreland County athletic history, not once finishing with a losing record and routinely advancing deep into the playoffs. What does he think about the grand ride he’s been on for most of his life?

“I don’t know,” he says, clearly finished discussing himself. “I’ve got to go mark the field and get ready for practice.” Now that’s credible.

David Wilkerson
The Journal

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