January 16, 2011 by USA Post
I know at least a dozen Mike Smith in the sport, the famous jockey, an NHL goalie, a linebacker, a professional golfer, a boxer, a sports reporter and a sports chiropractor. And there are probably a dozen others that have escaped my attention. But not this one, the football coach.
Mike Smith is my favorite. There is nothing sxy about the name or person. I do not know a man who came to this city and captured the hearts of the people without putting a ball, swinging a kick or one that Mike Smith. (This is the only name he knew. The Falcons media guide lists him in plain “Mike Smith.”)
There was nothing fancy about him. He grew up one of eight children in Daytona Beach, where his parents were teachers. In the summer break, her father painted houses and Mike painted alongside. When he was a senior at Father Lopez High School, he broke a leg and has talked about leaving the coach to stay as a helper, and it was the beginning of what would become his career? (And I’ll tell you this; he was a child of good appearance, as in beautiful.)
He was able to get get scholarshipped by East Tennessee State, which has since dropped football, and twice was linebacker leading the team. Subsequently, he managed to find a job in San Diego State, and drove across the country in a rattling old Volkswagen. Then came Morehead State and Tennessee Tech 14 seasons in the “bush leagues” of college football.
Then, for the Baltimore Ravens and the Jaguars, and I’m not sure how it was that drew the attention of Thomas Dimitroff, who had attracted the attention of Arthur Blank, Rich McKay and the Falcons.
After walking through five seasons and four coaches (if you include Emmitt Thomas, who sat through the Bobby Petrino fiasco), the Falconery finally landed.
I suppose if you had to settle on anything that goes tick Mike Smith is the fact that he came here not only to coach but also to teach. Rod Woodson, who had been with the Ravens when Mike was there, had this to say:
“I think that education is a lost art in the NFL. There are many coaches who can put an X and O on the edge, but they cannot teach a man why they did it. Mike can do. It will be a good teacher. ”
Not only that, but as coaches go, Mike is an extraordinary human being, and Dimitroff and forged a kind of leadership, Arthur Blank struggling to find through these first five seasons. That’s it, is man, the 79th Mike Smith in the telephone directory, and once again the Sporting News Coach of the Year. My kind of man, not just the coach.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. Sports journalist of long standing is a member of Atlanta Georgia and Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame and in addition to newspaper articles is the author of several books on major figures such as Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes regular columns for the citizen.
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