The rush of competition. The roar of the crowd. Game day is a big thrill for South Carolina State University football fans, players and coaches.
It’s also exciting for the people who work behind the scenes. And no one gets more excited than S.C. State Sports Information Director Kendrick Lewis.
“I get goosebumps coming into this place on gameday,” he said. “There’s no feeling like it. It’s kind of like the best day of your life.”
But it’s also a lot of work. Lewis said he gets up at 7 a.m. and is at Willie Jeffries Field at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium no later than 8:30, no matter what time the game is.
“That way, I have time to troubleshoot,” he said.
“I’m responsible for making sure all media is credentialed, all the pregame presentations are in order, as far as in the script – who’s going to do the coin toss, who’s going to say the prayer,” he said. “So basically, I took on a lot of media relations duties and marketing duties as well.”
Lewis makes sure the phone lines work, the seats are set up, the game notes are done and the game day programs are put out for the players and the media and in the president’s box and the athletic director’s box. He also provides the stats during the game to members of the media.
“It’s probably one of those days where you have to be here a couple of hours early in case anything goes wrong,” he said.
But the preparation is not as bad as the post-game duties, he said. He makes sure he gets quotes from players on both sides as well as video featuring both teams. He sends the game file to each school and to the NCAA as well as local and national media outlets.
“So typically, my (real) work doesn’t start until after the final play,” he said. “I have to write my story (and) make sure everybody has what they need.”
Lewis said he ends his day about three hours after the game is over.
“It’s a good 12-hour day, easily, just to get through one game,” he said.
Working 60-plus hours a week is not unusual, he said. And even though “football is king here,” he’s in charge of covering 14 sports.
Lewis worked for now-retired SID Bill Hamilton from 2000-03. He said it was a bit intimidating at first following in the footsteps of such a legend.
“When he first retired, I didn’t think I was ready to take the step into his shoes because those are some big shoes to fill,” he said. “But he always told me, ‘You’re ready. You just don’t know it yet, but you’re ready.’”
Lewis said he is thankful Hamilton stuck around after retiring to help him and guide him. He said Hamilton has encouraged him to always keep the job fun and to always enjoy it. And as he discovered, if it’s fun, then it never really seems like a job.
A native Mullins, Lewis graduated from Mullins High School in 1993. He took some time off and came to South Carolina State in 1997, where he majored in psychology and minored in journalism.
As a student he worked for Hamilton and in the sports department at The Times and Democrat, coming on full-time at the paper after graduating in 2003. In 2005, he got a job in S.C. State’s marketing department while still working part-time for Hamilton, and eventually became assistant SID.
His best experience in the job was in 2013 when he was promoted from interim director to director. It was the same year that the Bulldogs won a MEAC championship and played Furman in a first-round NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff game, hosting such a game for the first time in 32 years.
He said he’s also enjoyed seeing five former Bulldogs he’s covered drafted and playing in the NFL. He feels like a proud big brother, he said.
“Those are my guys,” he said.
Lewis’ worst experience?
“Losing,” he said. A few years back when he was an assistant, the S.C. State men’s basketball program had the longest losing streak in the country.
“25, 26 games straight,” he said. “I got on the bus after the Norfolk State loss and I just broke down in tears because when you come from a program like this and you lose like you lose, it hurts.”
In his spare time, Lewis enjoys listening to jazz and working on his photography skills. He said he also likes going to other programs’ sporting events because he gets to just sit back and enjoy the game.