PORT ARTHUR —
All athletes have a favorite coach; the man that impacts their life and athletic career in a positive way. I have had a few more coaches than some. From high school through the pros I’ve had 4 coaches, all of which were highly recognized and decorated. Starting with Hayden Fry at SMU to Webb Eubanks at the Jets and finishing with Don Coryell, aka Air Coryell, with the St. Louis Cardinals.
There is something about your high school coach that makes them special and I’m going to attempt to share why Francis Smitty Hill was my favorite coach.
My experience tells me there is more to coaching than the game itself. When you sign up for the task you not only are expected to win games but you are called to shape the lives of the young men call the team. I know now how blessed my mom and dad were to send me and my brothers out the door to be coached by Smitty Hill.
What sets him apart in the field of coaches? He made me feel as if I was special not just as an athlete, but as a young man. His first concern was not about how tight my spiral was or how accurate I was or how fast I could run, but my growth as a person. I was not just a player; I was one of his own.
He was more interested in how I was doing in the classroom, how my family was doing, what my plans were for the summer and, of course, how I was doing in my other sports. He always wanted what was best for me. His job was to point me in the right direction and reinforce my dad’s teaching about discipline, preparation and the importance of having fun playing the game.
He taught me about rules, not only about football, but the rules of life. He was a man in my eyes that had this life all figured out. His deep abiding love for Jesus was so obvious in his life and coaching style. You could sense it at every level, practice, game day, hunting or those special good ol man-to-man visits we used to have.
You always knew where he stood. And he knew from whom he gained his success and strength. His subtle style made it very obvious that he really did love us as his own. We were his boys and he wanted to make us into the best football players and men we could be.
He taught me about Team and how important the relationships with my teammates were, and yes, before we were done we would run through a wall for each other. You were not only being responsible for your actions but those of your teammates as well. He taught me it wasn’t just about QB’s, running backs and wide outs that make a good team, but every position plays an important role in a winning program.
He taught me to respect my teammates and know their role as well as you do yours and never stop telling them how great they are doing. Team was family to coach Hill. One family working to WIN the game. He expected every player to give it all up for the team.
It was so much fun that when I went off to college to play I was thinking one day I was going to be a Smitty Hill. Several of my teammates became little Smittys and I am very proud of them. I loved the game and, like him, I wanted it to be my life profession — building character, self-esteem and training kids to use their God given talents to be the best they can be sounded like something I wanted to do.
Well that did not happen but I did the next best thing. I started teaching Sunday school just like Smitty. What did he teach me besides how to play quarterback? He taught me how important it is to get in the game of pointing kids in the right direction.
Next time I sit down to write about my favorite coach I will touch on his competitive nature. The legacy he left with me and my teammates is incredible and one we will always cherish. I was coached in high school by the best coach ever and the memories we made will never be forgotten.
Every player he ever coached is reaping the benefits of having experienced a few hours on the gridiron with Coach Hill. I just hope someday it can be said of me like we say of Coach, “That man loves his God, loves his wife and family, loves his country and made a difference for the good in this crazy world we live in.”