2008 Recipient: George Smith, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (FL.)

Courtesy: AFCA
          Release: 10/22/2008
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High School head coach George Smith has been named the 2008 Power of Influence Award recipient. The Florida High School Athletic Association nominated Smith. The award, which is presented jointly by the American Football Coaches Association® and the American Football Coaches Foundation®, will be presented to Smith at the AFCA Coach of the Year dinner on Tuesday, January 13, at the 2009 AFCA Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

The Power of Influence Award was created as a way for the AFCA and AFCF to honor a deserving high school football coach for his effect on his players, school and community. This award is not based on wins and losses, however, it is noted that coaches of powerful influence have longevity and success. It is the first AFCA award specifically designed to honor a high school coach.

“The award itself is very humbling, to know that so many people were nominated,” Smith said. “This is an award that took many, many individuals. So many players have played here over the past 35 years. Those are the people who this award is about. It would not be possible without them. Those are the guys that have made our success possible. One thing that’s run through the grain is that we’ve had a lot of great human beings that have played here. They’ve influenced me as much as I’ve influenced them.”

Smith graduated from Purdue University in 1971 and moved to Fort Lauderdale in the fall of 1972 to teach at St. Thomas Aquinas, which hired him as a history teacher and assistant football coach under Mike Gallagher. Smith became head football coach in 1975 and in 1982, he also took on the job of athletic director. He is in his 32nd year as head coach at St. Thomas Aquinas.

The Raiders have achieved a great deal of success with Smith as head coach. Under his tutelage, the Raiders have won four state championships (1992, 1997, 1999 and 2007), been runner-up seven times, won 19 district championships and achieved an overall record of 318-65 at the conclusion of the 2007 season. Last season, Smith led St. Thomas Aquinas to a 14-1 record and the school’s fourth state title. In the 2006 regular season finale, Smith’s Raiders beat Davie Western High School, 45-7, allowing Smith to become one of five Florida prep coaches to win 300 games, and the first to win all 300 games at one school.   
In addition to Smith winning the 2008 Power of Influence Award, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel have chosen Smith multiple times for their Football Coach of the Year awards. In 2005, Smith was inducted into the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He also is a member of the Florida Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame and the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame. Smith has been a member of the AFCA since 1977 and has served on the public relations committee for the past four years. In addition, he has been a member of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association since 1972 and has served on the Board of Directors for 10 years.

In a letter of recommendation, Urban Meyer, the head football coach at the University of Florida, stated the following about Coach Smith: “Under George’s leadership, St. Thomas Aquinas High School has produced hundreds of Division I football players, but more importantly he has produced thousands of great men. George has shown that you can influence people with wins and losses; however, the greatest influence a coach can have is in the lives of their players by making sure they do the ‘right thing,’ put their families and teammates first, be good students and most importantly be good men.”

Other finalists for this year’s award were: Jamie Rigs, T.R. Miller High School (Brewton, Ala.); Stacy Luker, Sweet Water High School (Sweet Water, Ala.); Rich Yonker, Poudre High School (Fort Collins, Colo.); Russ Isaacs, R. Nelson Snider High School (Fort Wayne, Ind.); Don Dobrino, Mt. Olive High School (Mt. Olive, Ill.); Ed Thomas, Aplington-Parkersburg High School (Parkersburg, Iowa); David Hylla, Proctor High School (Proctor, Minn.); James Drewry, Booneville High School (Booneville, Miss.); Shell Dula, Greenwood High School (Greenwood, S.C.); Terry Dosch, Roncali High School (Aberdeen, S.D.); Tim Teykl, B.F. Terry High School (Rosenberg, Texas); Craig Beverlin, Kamiakin High School (Kennewick, Wash.); Joel Eskelsen, Big Piney High School (Big Piney, Wyo.).

Past Power of Influence Award winners include: Larry Dippel, Amarillo (Texas) High School (2002); John McKissick, Summerville (S.C.) High School (2003); Marcus Borden, East Brunswick (N.J.) High School (2004); Ron Stolski, Brainerd (Minn.) High School (2005); Sid Otton, Tumwater (Wash.) High School (2006); and Rob Younger, Sweet Home (Ore.) High School (2007).

“Coach George Smith is not only an influence on young people, but the influence is multiplied many times in the beliefs of the young people he helped mold into amazing human beings. George is an outstanding coach, but more importantly, he is an outstanding gentleman.” —Tina Jones, Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas High School