NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt senior defensive analyst and veteran collegiate coach Osia Lewis passed away following a lengthy battle with cancer Sunday morning. He was 57.
Lewis is survived by his wife, Darlene, son, Marvin, and daughter, Kiana.
“Osia Lewis was a special man,” head coach Derek Mason said. “His wisdom, love, honesty, truth and faith based views truly set him apart. He was a fox-hole teacher who made you better just being around him.”
Lewis stepped away from full-time coaching in 2017, moving into a role as senior defensive assistant and special consultant to head coach Derek Mason. He joined Mason’s Vanderbilt staff as senior defensive assistant and outside linebackers coach in 2016.
Lewis brought extensive experience to Vanderbilt, having served as a defensive coordinator at the collegiate and professional levels. He has coached in 10 bowl games with teams from the Pac-12, Big Ten, Conference USA and Mountain West.
Prior to joining Mason at Vanderbilt, Lewis worked five years as defensive line coach at San Diego State under head coach Rocky Long.
In 2015, San Diego State enjoyed a banner year on the strength of a top-ranked defense. The Aztecs finished 11-3 overall, defeated Air Force for the Mountain West championship and earned a convincing 42-7 win over Cincinnati in the Hawaii Bowl.
The Aztecs were sparked by an outstanding defense that ranked among the NCAA top 10 in several defensive categories. It finished the year fifth nationally in total defense (287.3 yards/game), seventh in scoring defense (16.4 points/game) and seventh in rushing defense (108.7 yards/game), and 10th in pass efficiency.
The San Diego State defense lead the nation in turnover margin. The Aztecs’ interior pressure forced opponents into 34 turnovers, including 23 interceptions en route to a remarkable plus-19 turnover margin by season’s end. One of Lewis’ top pupils in 2015 was junior Alex Barrett, who produced 13 tackles for loss and 5.5 quarterback sacks while earning first team All-Mountain West honors. Barrett also was the fourth Aztec lineman to receive All-Mountain West recognition during Lewis’ tenure at the school.
In 2014, the San Diego State defense finished among the NCAA Top 20 in nearly every defensive category, including scoring defense (13th) and total defense (16th).
Prior to joining San Diego State, Lewis spent the 2010 season as a coordinator in the World Football League in 2010, and worked as defensive coordinator at Texas El Paso during the 2008-09 seasons.
From 2003-07, Lewis served as defensive coordinator at New Mexico. He also had stints coaching the Lobos’ defensive line and linebackers. In his tenure at New Mexico, the Lobos went to four bowl games and its defensive unit ranked fifth nationally in rushing defense in 2003.
From 1997-2002, Lewis guided linebackers and the defensive line at Illinois. In his final year, the Illini played in the 2002 Nokia Sugar Bowl and posted a final No. 12 national ranking.
Lewis’ first full-time coaching position at the NCAA FBS level came at his alma mater, Oregon State. Between 1991-96, he coached linebackers and special teams with the Beavers.
Lewis’ initial entry into the collegiate coaching ranks came as an assistant at Western Oregon in 1989-90.
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Lewis was a team captain and honorable mention All-America at Oregon State. Lewis was All-Pac 10 and named the Beavers’ most inspirational player. He continued his playing career professionally in the Canadian Football League and in the Arena Football League.
Lewis earned a bachelor’s in social science education from Oregon State in 1986. He also completed a master’s in education from Oregon State in 1989.