That guy was Jeff Jagodzinski.
A graduate assistant at LSU, Lewis gave Jagodzinski his first real coaching job. He has come a long way since then. Now the first-year head coach at Boston College, Jagodzinski brings his fourth-ranked Eagles (6-0) to Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday to take on Lewis and the Irish (1-5).
"Bill gave me my first opportunity to be a Division I coach at East Carolina way back when, and we had some really good years at East Carolina," Jagodzinski said Wednesday during the ACC teleconference. "When we first got there, Bill took over a program where we were everybody's homecoming game. By the end we ended up being ninth in the country and Bill was National Coach of the Year. I got a lot of respect for Bill."
When Lewis arrived at East Carolina, the program hadn't had a winning season since 1983. Three years later, they went 11-1 and beat North Carolina State in the Peach Bowl, the school's first bowl appearance in 13 years. Lewis said Jagodzinski was a big part of that.
"He did a heck of a job for us the three years I was there," Lewis said.
"From there his career has skyrocketed him and I am very happy and very proud. You like to think when you give a guy a start like that, you've done something to help somebody. He's very special. He's done a special job with his career to this point."
Jagodzinski stayed at East Carolina through the 1996 season before taking a the offensive coordinator position at Boston College for two years. He then moved onto the Green Bay Packers for four seasons in the NFL as a tight ends coach. He then caught on with the Atlanta Falcons for two years coaching the offensive line and tight ends, before going back to Green Bay for the 2006 season as the offensive coordinator. This year, he has the Eagles off to their best start since the 1942 season.
Jagodzinski isn't the only member of the Lewis coaching tree coming to South Bend. Steve Logan was Lewis's offensive coordinator at East Carolina, and he fills the same role for Jagodzinski at Boston College.
Logan actually took Lewis's job when Lewis left to be the head coach of Georgia Tech, and in 10 years became East Carolina's all-time winningest coach with a record of 69-58. He led the Pirates to five bowl games and is regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the business.
"The thing I admire so much about Steve, is we took that program at East Carolina when it was struggling and we got it turned around," Lewis began. "Had the big year in 91 and then I left and Steve took over. For the next 10 years, Steve took that program to the next level and he kept it there. That's not an easy program to do that with and Steve did a marvelous job. Jags stayed with him, I can't remember whether it was three or four years and then he started to move on. Those two guys off of that staff and I've had others that have moved on, but Steve distinguished himself as the head coach at East Carolina, and Jags of course went on and our paths crossed when he was with Green Bay and again Atlanta. When I came here, he's moved into that position and doing a heck of a job. And Steve went from East Carolina to NFL Europe for a couple of years, and when Jags got the job, he got the opportunity to get in back with him."
Before Lewis was the head coach at East Carolina, he was the defensive coordinator at Georgia, and had to compete against Logan's offenses at Mississippi State. Lewis said every game seemed like it went down to who had the ball last, so Logan was one of his first hires he made.
With Jagodzinski and Logan at Boston College, they have catapulted the Eagles offense into one of the best in the country. The rank 21st nationally at 454.83 yards per game, and 11th nationally in passing yards per game at 314.17 yards. Boston College is averaging 35.83 points per game. Logan is a quarterbacks guy, and he has helped develop senior Matt Ryan into one of the leaders for the Heisman Trophy.
"We had a quarterback, Jeff Blake. And in 1991, we were 11-1 and really had a breakout season, and Jeff was a senior quarterback and had a great year," Lewis said. "I felt that that particular year, Jeff did as much or more for our team as any quarterback in Division I football did that year for his team. A lot of it was due to Steve's innovative mind. Steve is one of those kind of guys, I swear if you let him throw the ball every snap, he'd throw it every snap. He'd spread you from sideline to sideline, and you're going to see that this week. He believes in using every inch of the field. And he's got a quarterback that can throw the ball to every inch of the field there, so he's in his element.
"Jags is an offensive line coach, I'm sure he's got to tame him down and say lets run the ball a few times," Lewis continued with a laugh. "Steve was extremely innovative back then. The whole time he was the head coach at East Carolina they were explosive offensively."
Lewis and his secondary that is ranked fourth nationally against the pass (153.67 yards per game), hope to slow down his former staff members this Saturday.