In his playing days, Georgia Tech offensive line coach Mike Sewak was a handful, occasionally given to using a tactic that he didn’t want in print for fear his own players would try it and blame their coach.
“I would have a hard time coaching me sometimes,” said Sewak, who played offensive line at Virginia.
Sewak, 53, is a man of faith, a father of three and a golfer who used to think nothing of playing 45 or 54 holes in a day. Prior to the start of the preseason, he volunteered that information and more, part of a series with Tech’s assistant coaches.
1. Sewak and his wife Robin have three children, Michael Robert, Olivia and Nick. Michael Robert is at Tech, Olivia is at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and Nick is at Lassiter. Nick is a long snapper for Lassiter hoping for a chance to play in college, possibly at a mid-major FBS school.
On a visit to see Olivia in New York, the two went to an exhibit of Alexander McQueen, the famed British fashion designer. Sewak figured it would be an act of paternal sacrifice in order to spend time with his daughter, but ended up enjoying it so much he encouraged his sons to go, too.
“I’d go four or five rooms ahead and run back and say, ‘You’ve got to check this out,’” Sewak said.
No word if Olivia has any interest in re-designing Tech’s uniforms.
2. When Sewak came to Tech with coach Paul Johnson in 2008, it was actually his second time on staff. He served as a graduate assistant to then-coach Bill Curry in 1984, his second coaching job after graduating from Virginia. A dining staple of his was Junior’s Grill, a campus landmark that at the time was located on North Avenue. It later moved on campus and closed down in April 2011. As a grad assistant having to stretch his money, Sewak dined often on the $2 vegetable plate.
“And it was a good vegetable plate,” he said.
3. Sewak got to know Johnson at Georgia Southern when both were assistants to Erk Russell in 1985-86. They both went to Hawaii in 1987 and coached together through 1994. Wide receivers coach Buzz Preston also came on staff at Hawaii in 1987, leaving after the 1993 season. All three have families with children in similar age groups.
“We’ve celebrated their birthdays and they’ve celebrated our birthdays,” he said. “Everybody babysat everybody.”
4. After he was fired as head coach at Georgia Southern following the 2005 season, Sewak and his family stayed in Statesboro. Sewak, in fact, used the time to earn his master’s in sport management at Georgia Southern, which required him a few times to guest lecture classes taken by his former players.
He also took his boys to see college games around the Southeast and visited assisted living homes with his daughter to help lead worship services. Olivia sang and her dad accompanied on piano. Sewak said he would have taken another coaching job during those two years, but relishes that time.
“I got to see my kids grow up,” he said. “I really got to be a part of their lives.”
5. Part of Sewak’s final assignment in his master’s program was to get a sports management internship. Sewak found a decent one – co-offensive line coach for Tech. For the sake of the degree, professors permitted him to count the position, which he was hired to in Dec .2007 shortly after Johnson’s hire, as an internship.
“The timing couldn’t have been any better,” he said.
Sewak’s final project, which included a detailed 12-month calendar for starting up a football program, with plans for academics, recruiting, purchasing, fund-raising, drug testing and more, is on a DVD in the Georgia Southern archives.
6. During his time in Statesboro, Sewak coached his son Nick’s youth baseball and basketball teams. Among Nick’s teammates was a youngster named Freddie Burden, who is a freshman offensive lineman for Sewak this season. Burden knows what he’s getting into. Sewak said that when Burden played for him, he got onto Burden for not running out pop flies.
Sewak’s ties to Burden don’t end there. When he was pursuing his master’s, one of his professors was Burden’s father Willie, an associate professor in the sport management department.
7. Georgia Southern’s 27-23 loss to New Hampshire in the first round of the 2004 Division I-AA playoffs eats at Sewak more than any other. A cold rain came through Statesboro just as the team took the field to stretch, which played a hand in the Eagles’ six fumbles, three of which were lost. The Eagles, who led 21-6 in the second quarter, had gone into the game averaging 49 points a game.
“That game hurts more than any other, because that was a good football team,” he said. “It was coached up well, the kids played and believed in one another. They deserved a chance to win it all.”
He still wonders what he could have done differently.
“I don’t know what I would have done, but I know what I did wasn’t very effective,” he said.
8. What inspires him?
“Guys that have done it the right way,” he said. “I get inspired by our players. To see somebody working hard to achieve something they’ve never achieved before and even though I know it’s difficult for them, and I see them do it for the first time (is inspiring).”
For Sewak that includes, among others, former center Sean Bedford, B-back Anthony Allen and wide receiver Stephen Hill. Sewak admired Hill’s performance under considerable pressure to replace Demaryius Thomas.
“Last season, he came along and he got better, really good,” he said.
9. In an ideal world, Sewak would rotate two lines. Tech is probably closest to being able to do that at guard, where Shaquille Mason and Trey Braun are pushing starters Omoregie Uzzi and Will Jackson. At tackle, Morgan Bailey is challenging starter Ray Beno and part-time starter Tyler Kidney, with Errin Joe and Bryan Chamberlain also making a bid. Center Nick McRae has proven a capable backup behind Jay Finch.
“You’d like to be in a position where you could play two lines and just go throw a fresh body at ’em every time and hit ’em the hardest you possibly could hit ’em every single time,” he said.
10. Sewak loves the depth the offensive line has built up, with four returning full-time starters, three more linemen who played considerably and a crew of promising freshmen. Sewak likes the group’s intelligence and unity and believes players know the scheme well enough. To him, the challenge will be in players’ mental toughness.
“You don’t have to double (team) everything all the time because you’re not going to (be able to),” he said. “I guess the thing I want to say for those kids is their self-reliance – know that they’re capable of doing it and doing it.”
Other “10 things”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog