E.A. Sports Today

End of an era

Legendary Piedmont football coach Steve Smith retiring from public sector, will become new head coach/athletics director at Westbrook Christian

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT – Steve Smith, the coach who took a program that had fallen on hard times and turned it back into a state power, is retiring from the Piedmont football program to become head coach at the Westbrook Christian, which has designs on becoming the next big private school program in the state.

“It’s official,” Smith said in his first public announcement. “I’ll be retiring from the public school sector effective end of the semester.

“I have agreed to become new head football coach/athletic director at Westbrook Christian School.”

He delivered the news to his team Friday afternoon.

In moving to the private sector, Smith brings to a close one of the most successful chapters of high school football coaching in state history.

In 17 years with the Bulldogs alone, he has won 10 games or more 15 times, never missed the playoffs and never had a losing season. In fact, his worse season in all those years was 7-4 in his first season (2006). The Bulldogs had won only eight games in the previous three seasons combined before his arrival.

He is 198-36 at Piedmont with five state titles and two runner-up finishes, including this past year. He has been in the state finals six of the last eight years.

Prior to Piedmont, he was 85-45 in 11 seasons at Cedar Bluff. Smith said his 29 1/2 years in public education has “gone by in a hurry.”

“Time flies, for sure,” he said. “You get to the point in your life with your own family and your own family situations. The Lord’s blessed us with three outstanding children; Rachel and I have been blessed beyond measure there.

“You get to the point in time in your career that sometimes you make a selfish decision and that’s the best way I can characterize it. It’s a selfish decision that I’m making to look out for me and my family.”

A successor for the winningest coach in the program’s history “is to be determined, of course,” Piedmont principal Adam Clemons said.

“He’s a great man and a great educator and a great coach,” Piedmont principal Adam Clemons said. “He’s meant a lot to Piedmont and he will be missed. He will do well wherever he goes and we wish him all the best.”

Rumors of a connection between Smith and the Warriors have been going on for several weeks. He said a deal was agreed upon on Wednesday night and the news was held a day out of respect for Piedmont quarterback Jack Hayes’ bid to become Mr. Football.

Smith said Westbrook officials laid out a “tremendous vision and direction” for their athletics program and school as a whole and he felt he could be “a good complementary piece there.” That vision includes competing on the statewide level for championships across the board, which was the expectation he wanted to hear.

It was the same expectation he succeeded in implementing when he arrived at Piedmont 17 years ago. And with spring sports about to get underway that’s a mission he’ll continue to his very last day.

“I’ve got nothing but great things to say about Piedmont, the community, the school system, our support here and the administration here and mostly the players who have been through the program and our coaches,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a bittersweet day for me because this place has been so good to me and my family, we’ve had a lot of fun here together and a lot of good times together.

“I’m excited about the new chapter in my life, excited about the opportunity to be able to continue on as the football coach/athletic director, something I really feel like is a calling. You’ve got to have the right kind of heart to be in that position and I feel like it’s what God has always wanted me to do.

“Walking away from such a good place, I’ve made no bones about it, I’ve said I felt like Piedmont High School head football coach is the best job in the state and I don’t back down from that. Nothing but great things to say about Piedmont.”

Westbrook will publicly welcome Smith at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Cover photo of Piedmont coach Steve Smith by Greg Warren.

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