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Kevin Smith earns top job at Benjamin Russell football program
Posted On:
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Smith Named Head Coach at BRHS
Smith Named Head Coach at BRHS

Kevin Smith earns top job at Benjamin Russell football program


By Lizi Arbogast

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Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2018

From intern to positions coach to coordinator, Kevin Smith has now officially made it to the top of the Benjamin Russell football tower. Smith was named the head coach of the program Tuesday morning at a meeting of the Alexander City School Board of Education.

But instead of being overjoyed at the thought of becoming in charge of a program he’s grown to love over 22 years of service, Smith was thinking about only one thing — football.

“It’s time to go to work,” Smith said. “It hasn’t really hit me. All I can think about right now is we’re maxing out today and I gotta get back over to the weight room. I’m really ready to go. This feels great, though, because I’m still at Ben Russell.”

Smith has become a staple of the Wildcat coaching staff since he became an intern in 1995. Growing up in Vidalia, Georgia, Smith graduated from Cullman before attending Auburn University and being selected to do an internship in Alexander City.

“If there ever was an example of a plan being laid out, this was it,” Smith said. “I was assigned to Alex City, and I knew I wanted to get into coaching. After I got my assignment, the next person I called was coach (Steve Savarese). I bugged him to death, and from there, he hired me.”

Smith was hired to the ninth-grade staff in 1996 as a wide receivers and defensive backs coach and joined the Benjamin Russell staff in 1997 under Phil Lazenby, who moved Smith to inside linebackers coach. From 1997 to 2001, the Wildcats made it to the Class 6A finals three times and won once in 2001 when Willie Carl Martin was head coach.

“People would tell me I’m spoiled rotten,” Smith said. “There are people that go their entire careers without seeing the finals, and I got it three times out of my first five years. That was a great learning experience.”

Smith moved into the defensive coordinator position when current Wildcat baseball coach Richy Brooks stepped down to focus solely on baseball. Smith was the DC from 2004 to 2008, and when former coach Danny Horn came in 2009 and brought defensive coordinator Steve Burkhalter with him, Smith was moved immediately to offensive coordinator.

“I think he’s a really good fit because he’s done both sides of the ball,” Brooks said. “He’s very familiar with this school and the people here. He knows Benjamin Russell and knows what they need in order to be successful. (The players) see how hard he works at it and how much he cares about it. If he’s aware of anything, it’s that there’s a deep-rooted tradition at Benjamin Russell, and I think he’ll be the best choice to bring that back into the program and take advantage of that.”

Alexander City Parks and Recreation Director Sonny Wilson said, “He’s worked for some great coaches, and over the 22-year span, he should’ve learned something from every one of them. That plus the love he has for the community, I’ve seen him around the kids, and he really cares for the kids. He deserves this opportunity, and there’s nobody that could come in that would love Benjamin Russell like Kevin Smith does.”

Alexander City Superintendent Dr. Darrell Cooper made the final recommendation to the school board after a month-long hiring process. A hiring committee consisting of BRHS Principal Dr. Anthony Wilkinson, BRHS athletic director Pam Robinson, BRHS assistant principal Tracy McGhee, Alexander City City Councilman Scott Hardy and Quarterback Club President Bill Hendrix narrowed the process down from nearly 90 applicants to 12 interviewees to three finalists. Smith’s coaching will amount to $21,959, according to Cooper.

“Kevin stood out in that callback interview (of finalists),” Wilkinson said. “I’ve worked with him for four years, and he’s done everything we asked of him. He’s taken over. When coach Horn left, he took over the weight room without having any type of title, and he’s done a wonderful job.”

Robinson added, “I’ve worked with Kevin for 22 years, and he’s very excited about the opportunity. He’s worked very hard and he’s worked with a couple of our booster clubs and done a great job with that. I’m excited about some of the visions he has for the football program and our kids and our community.”

While being familiar with the community and the kids was a factor in Smith’s hiring, it wasn’t the only reason he was chosen.

“He’s got a lot of football knowledge and a lot of ideas about how to lead the program,” Cooper said. “Even though he’s been under coach Horn for the last nine years, he’s got a lot of new ideas to even carry the program further. It was very much a contributing factor that he’s been here and knows the community, but it’s not just that. He’s very well-known and very well-respected in coaching community, and he’s got a lot of fresh ideas about what he’d like to do here as well.”

It definitely seems he has the support of the players. Through all the messages and comments The Outlook has received, all have been positive and supportive of the board’s decision to hire Smith.

“I’ve been praying he got the job,” Wildcat sophomore wide receiver Za Stowes said. “He’s been here for a while, and I kinda wanted someone in the school to get the job. Him and coach Horn are not like, so there will be some differences, but I like coach Smith. He’s got the experience. He’s been here for a while, and he was here in ’01 when we won the state championship, so I feel like he’ll get us where we need to be.”

And if nothing else, Smith is Wildcat through and through.

“Because I went through that early phase, I’m a fan of Benjamin Russell,” Smith said. “I don’t know if that shows through, but it’s not just a job. I’m a Benjamin Russell fan and I’m not from here. I’m an outside and I’m really, truly a fan of Benjamin Russell.”

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