Justin Lustig, a Broyles Award nominee as the nation’s top assistant coach, joined Vanderbilt in January, 2021, as the assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach after four seasons at Syracuse.
The 2021 season will mark Lustig’s 21st in college football. He has mentored 50 all-conference selections, including the 2018 Lou Groza Award recipient, Andre Szmyt. He has also coached in three bowl games, two FCS playoffs and three Division III playoff appearances.
During his time at Syracuse, Lustig served as the special teams coordinator each season. He guided the Orange running backs in 2017 before shifting to outside receivers from 2018-20. For the 2019-20 seasons, Lustig added assistant head coach responsibilities.
With the Syracuse special teams units, Lustig helped the Orange lead the ACC in net punting in each of his first three years and finish in the top 10 nationally in 2019 (3rd; 43.03) and 2017 (10th; 41.3). During his years on staff, the Orange averaged 43.7 yards/punt.
Lustig’s 2017 punt team was No. 4 in the country in punt return defense (2.67 yards/return) and set the school season record for fewest opponent punt returns with nine. Additionally, Syracuse led the conference in kickoff coverage. In 2019, the Orange ranked fifth in the FBS in punt return defense (1.7 yards/return) and surrendered just 17 punt return yards, the fewest in program history. In all, Lustig’s punt coverage teams yielded just 369 yards over four seasons while the kickoff coverage teams averaged 21.6 yards/return during his tenure.
Lustig’s dominant special teams helped propel the Orange to a 10-3 record in 2018. His units contributed two touchdowns (punt return; blocked punt return) and the Orange finished sixth overall, and second among Power 5 programs, in ESPN’s special teams efficiency ratings.
Lustig coached eight All-ACC players at Syracuse, including six specialists. Szmyt captured the 2018 Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best placekicker. The third freshman to ever win the award and a unanimous All-American, Szmyt made an ACC-record 30 field goals and became the second kicker to lead the FBS in scoring (11.6 ppg).
In 2020, punter Nolan Cooney was a third-team selection while returner Nykeim Johnson carded second team accolades for Lustig. Cooney succeeded Sterling Hofrichter, the Syracuse career leader in punting yardage. In 2019 Hofrichter became Syracuse’s first finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the top collegiate punter, and earned All-America honors from seven outlets. Return man Sean Riley ended his Orange career as the program’s all-time leader in kickoff returns (115) and kickoff return yardage (2,433) and stood third with 4,358 all-purpose yards.
In his first year as Syracuse’s outside receivers coach, Lustig oversaw the development of Jamal Custis, a 2018 All-ACC second team honoree. In 2019, Trishton Jackson was voted to the All-ACC second team after he became the first Syracuse junior to record a 1,000-yard receiving season. The 2020 season was capped by Taj Harris being a third team all-league pick.
Before joining the Orange, Lustig was the head coach at Edinboro in 2016, when he was named the D2Football.com Coach of the Year. Lustig inherited an 0-11 team and led the Fighting Scots to a 9-2 record, the biggest turnaround in Division II football history. Along with his national coach of the year award, Lustig was voted the Don Hansen Football Gazette Super Region One Co-Coach of the Year and the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference West Coach of the Year.
He was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach from 2011-15 at Ball State, leading the Cardinals to appearances in the 2012 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl and the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl.
After starting his coaching career as an assistant at Christopher Newport from 2001-02, Lustig spent the 2003 season as the cornerbacks coach at Villanova. He returned to Christopher Newport for the 2004 and 2005 seasons, working as special teams coordinator, recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach. His four-year tenure with the Captains featured a USA South Atlantic Conference co-championship and three NCAA Division III playoff berths.
Lustig served as special teams coordinator and running backs coach at Eastern Illinois from 2006-08, helping the program to two FCS playoff appearances while coaching three 1,000-yard rushers.
Following his stint at Eastern Illinois, Lustig worked for two seasons at Louisiana Lafayette as the special teams coordinator and running backs coach.
A 1996 graduate of Pennsylvania’s Cathedral Prep, Lustig played collegiately at Bucknell. He was a four-year starter at defensive back for the Bison and captained the team as a senior.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in English and history from Bucknell in 2000. He received his master’s degree in human resource management from George Washington in 2005.
Lustig and his wife, Beth Ann, have two sons, Samuel and Henry.
The Lustig File
Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania
High School: Cathedral Prep
College: Bucknell (English and history, 2000)
Graduate School: George Washington (human resource management, 2005)
Wife: Beth Ann
Children: Sons – Samuel, Henry
1997-2000 • Bucknell (Defensive Back)
2001 • Christopher Newport • Defensive Backs
2002 • Christopher Newport • Defensive Backs
2003 • Villanova • Cornerbacks
2004 • Christopher Newport • Special Teams Coordinator • Defensive Backs • Recruiting Coordinator
2005 • Christopher Newport • Special Teams Coordinator • Defensive Backs • Recruiting Coordinator
2006 • Eastern Illinois • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2007 • Eastern Illinois • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2008 • Eastern Illinois • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2009 • Louisiana Lafayette • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2010 • Louisiana Lafayette • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2011 • Ball State • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2012 • Ball State • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2013 • Ball State • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2014 • Ball State • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2015 • Ball State • Assistant Head Coach • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2016 • Edinboro • Head Coach
2017 • Syracuse • Special Teams Coordinator • Running Backs
2018 • Syracuse • Special Teams Coordinator • Outside Receivers
2019 • Syracuse • Assistant Head Coach • Special Teams Coordinator • Outside Receivers
2020 • Syracuse • Assistant Head Coach • Special Teams Coordinator • Outside Receivers
2021 • Vanderbilt • Assistant Head Coach • Special Teams Coordinator • Tight Ends
2001 • Christopher Newport • Division III Playoffs
2002 • Christopher Newport • Division III Playoffs
2004 • Christopher Newport • Division III Playoffs
2006 • Eastern Illinois • FCS Playoffs
2007 • Eastern Illinois • FCS Playoffs
2012 • Ball State • Beef O’Brady’s Bowl
2013 • Ball State • GoDaddy Bowl
2018 • Syracuse • Camping World Bowl