Smith Named Coach of the Week

The Carolina Panthers have named Coach E.Z. Smith III of Concord High School (Concord, NC) as a 2007 Coach of the Week recipient.

The program recognizes outstanding high school coaches that have a positive influence in the communities and schools which they serve. In addition to receiving this award, a $1,000 donation from the Panthers and the National Football League will be made to the school's athletic department.

Coach Smith had a solid career plan. "I had my life all laid out," says Smith. "After graduating from college, I would play in the NFL for 10 years, use the money I earned to invest, and be a millionaire before turning 40 [years old]." It didn't quite turn out that "E.Z."

In high school, Smith was a three-year starter in football, basketball, and baseball, Smith received a full athletic scholarship to play football at the University of South Carolina, where he started and lettered for three years. After graduating in 1976 with a degree in education, he decided that the best way to stay close to the sport he loves was to coach. At the time, however, college coaching positions were not as numerous as they are today. His next best option was coaching high school football.

After teaching and serving as an assistant at a Florida high school for four years, Smith took the head coaching job at Concord High School in 1980, where he has been a force since the day he was hired. Smith has a career record of 251-93-1. The state championship eluded his grasp for 24 years, but Smith finally led the Concord Spiders to a 3-A State Championship in 2004, and then again in 2006.

Off the field, however, is where Smith's influence has been strongest. He has stayed on his players about staying out of trouble and keeping their grades up. He has helped over a hundred student-athletes qualify to play football at four-year colleges, two of which even have made it to the NFL. "The key [to guiding youth]," says Smith, "is that I try to live a good example, not just preach it. I also try to treat all of my players as if they were each one of my own children."

This compassion Smith mentions was on display one particular fall. During one of Concord's games on a normal Friday night, the home of one of his players caught fire and burned down. "They basically lost everything," says Smith. "I wanted to do something to help [the player] and his family out." His response? To help the family get back on its feet, Smith organized a home-furnishing drive and personally assisted them in finding a new place to stay.

Smith's leadership also extends beyond the boundaries of Concord High School. He enjoys promoting youth football involvement to both players and coaches and has performed a number of public speaking roles. At a USA Football Coaching School, he spoke on his experiences in working with youth and taught various football formations that new and old coaches alike could use on the field. Out of the football arena, Smith has been active in his church, where he has served as the lay-leader, teaches Sunday school classes, and sings at weddings.

Has Coach Smith's career gone exactly to plan? "I wouldn't trade it for anything," says Smith. The Carolina Panthers wish Coach E.Z. Smith and the Concord Spiders continued success.

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