Smith’s football coaching resume is firmly built within a local radar: Massac County middle school head coach from 2001-02, assistant for Paducah Middle football from 2003-06, assistant for Paducah Tilghman High School football from 2007-14.
A break from football was needed following some career advancement, when in 2014 he took on the role as PTHS’s assistant principal of curriculum and instruction.
But three months ago — and expectations high for a Tilghman football team loaded with senior talent — Smith answered the call he didn’t know was coming, and alongside a familiar staff and offensive system helped guide the Blue Tornado to a 9-3 record and a near-miss of the Class 3A regional championship.
Those three defeats? Close losses to Mayfield, Caldwell County and Elizabethtown.
Now, the team and all of its pieces are his to call his own — something he’s so sincerely wanted after a successful high school football career and a professional path into education and leadership.
“Paducah Tilghman football is such a traditional program,” Smith said. “I want to do everything in my power to try and get it back to where every single person in the state knows what it is capable of being.”
The Blue Tornado last won a state title in 2009 — when Smith served as an assistant to former head coach Randy Wyatt — and those goals remain the same.
Goal No. 2? To beat his former team, the Cardinals, in what has become one of the most storied rivalries nationwide — but has frankly belonged to Mayfield for more than a decade.
But above all else, Smith and his staff are intent on maintaining a culture change that truly began under Duncan — in which character will have to come first before football.
“I’ve probably talked to Coach (Steve Duncan) about twice a week going through the season,” Smith added. “To be honest, I think in the 12 games that we played, and the three or four weeks prior to that where I was able to talk to him, I may have asked him one football ‘x and o’ related question. A lot of it was just, sometimes I needed a person to vent to. Sometimes it was, ‘Coach, you’ve been in this situation before. How did you handle it? What did you do?’
“Without a doubt, he’s kind of been a guy who has been behind the scenes. He’s been there and done that. And he does things the right way.
"That was one of the things that he did a phenomenal job with in the two years he was here. He was getting the culture of the program back, in my opinion, in terms of what it needed to be. Teaching our kids how to do things the right way. And one of his major beliefs — and something I believe in my career — is that if we can teach these guys how to be great people, it will be really easy to teach them great football players. And that’s one of the things we’re trying to do.”