Jonesboro-Hodge High School is well known for spawning young coaches that go onto great things. Legendary high school football coach Don Shows and current high school basketball icon Casey Jones are just a couple that come to mind.
When you hear a former player speak about coaches such as these they will often say he was a “good one.” Ask any player Jonesboro-Hodge football player who had the privilege of being under Edgar James “E.J.” Lewis’s tutelage from 1960-63 or La Tech player from 1964-81 and they will say to a man that he was a “great one.”
Not only were these locals but people from all over the state was saddened recently when on August 15th “Coach” as he was known went to join “Mrs. Patsy” his bride of 50 years in heaven at the age of 93 years old. He is survived by two sons, Luke (wife Donna and children Logan, Keegan and Albany) and Jedd (wife Melanie, and sons Jake, Austin and Morgan). He was also blessed with five great-grandchildren.
Athletics were the largest part of Coach Lewis’ professional life. Even Mrs. Patsy called him “Coach.” He knew everyone and everyone knew him. It was in athletics that he made his biggest contributions, and it was through athletics that he made his closest friends and was able to help the most people.
An outstanding prep player in his hometown of Sulphur and then at McNeese State, he was later All-Air Force while a quarterback in the military from 1951-53 and helped his team win the military’s East Coast Championship. While at Sulphur he was a member of the 1945 team that played Jonesboro-Hodge for the Class A state championship.
But it was after his playing days, while recruiting and coaching football, that he really hit his stride. Coach Lewis either coached or recruited more than three-dozen all-conference players, 14 professional players and six all-Americans. He began his coaching career in his hometown in 1954 and coached there until 1959, when he became Louisiana Tech’s first graduate assistant.
In 1960 he became the youngest head coach in the state of Louisiana when he took over at Jonesboro-Hodge High. In his final season he led the Tigers to a 9-1-1 record and the first bowl game victory in the history of the school.
He came back to Tech to finish his master’s degree in 1964 and became an assistant coach under a pair of Tech legends, football coach Joe Aillet and track coach Jim Mize. His coaching career at Tech continued until 1981.
Coach’s recruiting style was some piano playing for the parents, a few jokes, honesty, and a promise to help develop both sides of the student athlete. He promised fun and hard work and loyalty and championships, and he always delivered. He was also famous for promising his players “an apple and a road map” for a trip home when they didn’t play up to their potentials.
With his inspiration, they usually did, as evidenced by the record Coach compiled. His career spanned a couple of eras at Louisiana Tech, including the Bulldogs’ 44-4 run of the early 1970s that included a pair of small college national championships. His coaching career ended, but his relationships with players did not.
Often “Coach” was the middleman in lining up successful jobs and careers for his players and coaching them to perform the same professionally as they did athletically. “Be good and take care of your business.” he was known to always say. His family will tell you that the coach, the dad and the husband were one in the same.
It is said that the best thing a person can do while living is leave a mark on the future. “Coach” Lewis certainly left his mark and we are all the better for knowing him.
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