LAKE FOREST – A peek at his resume would show how much educating others has shaped his life.
Sean Desai has a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from Columbia University and a doctorate in educational administration from Temple. He started work on the latter in 2006, when he began his coaching career with the Owls, and has been in the profession every year since.
At his core, Desai is a teacher, and his biggest course of his football career is ahead of him: Bears Defense 2021.
“Coaching is a very distinguished or different or unique form of teaching,” said Desai in his first news conference since he was promoted to replace Chuck Pagano as defensive coordinator. “I think my academic background has really brought me toward teaching.
“I know I was pre-med and all that stuff and I shifted over at Columbia to get my masters in education and did that and got my doctorate in education. But this is a form of teaching at the highest level, and I get to do it at the highest level and do it on the grass, and in an interactive way. That’s what always brought me back to coaching.”
A bulk of that has been with the Bears as he joined the team in 2013 when Marc Trestman took over the team. He was a quality control assistant for him, John Fox, and Matt Nagy before getting his first promotion to safeties coach in 2019.
When Pagano retired following the 2020 season, the Bears stayed in-house with their hire, choosing to go with the 37-year old assistant who has showed promise and earned the trust of others. It’s his biggest teaching job of his life in football, tasked with returning the Bears’ defense to the level they were at in 2018.
In many ways, Desai was a student back then when the Bears had the No. 1 defense in points allowed and led the league in takeaways with 36. He was learning from then defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, looking at the ways he got his players to play at such a high level.
Now in his new teaching role, he hasn’t forgotten what those before him taught during the past eight years. While Fangio holds a special place for Desai, he hasn’t forgotten about his two years with Pagano or the two with Mel Tucker, who was the defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014.
“Vic has been my biggest mentor in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been other mentors in the NFL as well, from the Mel’s and the Chuck’s as coordinators, and then even position coaches,” “The biggest thing I’ll take from Vic is gonna be my preparation and my approach to the game and the buy-in I’m gonna get from the players and how to do that, teaching people.
“But there’s gonna things I’m gonna take from Mel in terms of the organization and the detail and the planning and Chuck in terms of relationships and his ability to communicate, so All those things. For me, my career has been defined by learning from a lot of different people and then applying to my own philosophies and beliefs.”
So that he may now be a teacher in the biggest course of his life to date.