Photo: Steve Smith speaks to the Westbrook Christian student body after being introduced as the school’s head football coach and athletic director last Tuesday (Jan. 17) in Rainbow City. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Upon the retirement of Drew Noles as Westbrook Christian’s head football coach and athletic director this past December, the school administrators made it clear that the search for Noles’ successor would continue until the ideal candidate came became available.
Westbrook hit the proverbial bullseye for that target last Tuesday (Jan. 17) in Rainbow City, when the school introduced Steve Smith as its football coach and athletic director.
“This opportunity is one that I don’t take lightly,” said Smith, who will finish out the 2022-23 school year at Piedmont. “I’ve always had a deep amount of appreciation and respect for what Westbrook Christian stands for, and I’m very honored that you guys thought enough of me to bring me here. First and foremost, I’m a Christian before I’m a football coach, and I don’t mind telling people that and standing strong for Christ.”
Smith brings an impeccable coaching resume to 100 Westminster Drive. In 28 seasons at Cedar Bluff and Piedmont high schools, Smith’s teams went 283-81, including 62-22 in the postseason and 47-8 in region play; earned 16 region titles and won five state championships. The state titles came at Piedmont in 2021, 2019, 2016, 2015 and 2009. The 2022 Bulldogs finished as state runners-up. Smith coached six teams that went undefeated in the regular season – 1997 and 2005 at Cedar Bluff and 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2019 at Piedmont.
“I still have the health and the passion to go out there and give it 100 percent every day,” he said. “It was a matter of everything lining up perfectly. I knew this day would come at some point time, but when we walked off the field at Auburn this year (after Piedmont’s loss in the Class 3A state football championship), I didn’t expect it to be right now. But life is all about God opening doors, and I’m 100 percent convinced that this is the right place for me to be at this time.”
Smith stressed that he was very happy at Piedmont but could not pass up the opportunity that Westbrook presented.
“I really feel the head football coaching position at Piedmont is the marquee job in the state of Alabama, but like told Mrs. [Rachel] Neal and Mr. [Brodie] Croyle when we were interviewing, this job was the only one I’d consider leaving [Piedmont] for. Their vision aligns perfectly with my vision about what a school and an athletic program should be about.”
WCS principal Rachel Neal noted that Smith is “so much more” than a good football coach. “He’s going to do amazing things at Westbrook,” she said. “Not only on the ballfield, but up and down the hallways of this school as he enhances the lives of our students.”
Smith has no intention of “changing everything up” in his role as the school’s athletic director.
“I’m coming in here trying to add on to what’s already been started. I can see the direction this school wants to go with leadership, and it’s excites me to be a part of that. Under my guidance, everything about Westbrook Christian will be a ‘we’ thing. It’s all about this this school; it’s not about any individual.”
Smith, whose Piedmont football team played at Westbrook this past October, views the Warriors on the cusp of sustained success.
“We also played [Westbrook] in middle school and JV, and those games were extremely competitive. They’ve got a lot of talent coming up, and I want to compliment coach [Drew] Noles and everyone else involved for getting the ball rolling. This athletic program is already on the upward trend. I’m just hoping to contribute my small part to it and see how far we can take it.”
Smith also pointed to the school’s extensive overhaul of its athletic facilities over the past two years as further evidence of the school’s commitment to winning.
“It’s an exciting time to be a part of this school and to see all of these developments come to fruition,” he said. “A lot of planning and a lot of hard work has gone in to get [Westbrook] to this point, and I’m just thrilled that they thought enough of me to add me to the mix.”