Wellborn's Jeff Smith Wins 'Making a Difference' Award (AHSAA)


Seven individuals who have made an impact as exemplary role models have been selected as the 2020 Making a Difference Award recipients by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA). One recipient from each of the AHSAA’s seven classifications was chosen from nominations submitted by AHSAA member schools and other support organizations or individuals. This year’s recipients are Dr. Cathy Trimble, Francis Marion High School (1A) principal; Robin Tyra, Abbeville High School (2A) head football coach; Jeff Smith, Walter Wellborn High School (3A) athletic director and head football coach; Joe Clements, West Blocton High School (4A) teacher and assistant and assistant football coach; Philip Barry Baker, Chilton County High School (5A) teacher and trainer; Kim Kiel, Pelham City Schools (6A) athletic director; and David Dobbs, Hewitt-Trussville High School track and cross country coach (7A). Each honoree will be recognized during the fall at a special presentation as their respective schools. A video presentation will also be produced by the AHSAA TV Network for release later this summer.

[Hear from Coach Jeff Smith in the featured video]

The Making a Difference Award was established in 2011 by the AHSAA and AHSADCA to recognize individuals who go beyond their normal duties as a coach, teacher or administrator to make a positive impact in their schools and communities. This year’s recipients include one principal, two athletic directors, three football coaches, one certified athletic trainer, and one track and cross country coach. One of the football coaches also serves his school as AD. “The recipients in this 2020 Making a Difference class are excellent examples of men and women who take their positions as role models for their students, faculty and community very seriously and have shown extraordinary determination in faces the challenges each has faced, said AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. “Each has had a major positive impact in their communities and schools and across the state and are excellent choices for what this award stands for. This award is the most important honor a professional educator in our state can receive. Characteristics considered for this prestigious award include the recipient’s character, integrity, determination and service, all of which have enabled these individuals to have a life-changing impact on the community or school where they serve.”

CLASS 3A JEFF SMITH, WALTER WELLBORN HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH: Walter Wellborn High School head football coach and athletic director Jeff Smith grew up in Anniston without a father – but in the end he inherited two who stepped forward to fill that role. That is a big reason coaching football is about family. “For some kids, it may be the only family they might have,” he said. That is why Smith says he has modeling his entire coaching career after those two important mentors – his own high school football coach at Wellborn Mike Battles and his uncle Lloyd Dear. An all-state linebacker, Smith graduated from Wellborn in 1987, then spent the next four years at Jacksonville State playing football for Coach Bill Burgess. He was voted permanent captain his senior year. His coaching career began as an assistant coach at Handley in 1992, then reunited with Battles at Hueytown a year later. Four years later he became a head coach at Ohatchee High School – and started the Smith family on a journey that would also take them to Hueytown and finally bring them back home 12 years later. His teams at Ohatchee were 41-24 in six seasons 1997-2003; Hueytown was 35-31 from 2004-2008); and Wellborn 74-49 over the last 11 years. His teams have reached the state playoffs 15 times in 23 years and he has coached teams to 10-win seasons at Class 2A Ohatchee and Class 6A Hueytown. Last season, Wellborn reached the Class 3A semifinals finishing 12-2. “Being a coach when needed, an advocate for kids and a sounding board from time to time for me,” said says principal and former high school teammate Christopher Hayes. “He has faced adversity but has never wavered in his dedication to our students and community. He has been a voice for athletics and education at WWHS.” Smith has been a voice for He was also named Calhoun County Coach of the Year by the Anniston Star for 1A-3A in 2000, 2001, and 2002. He was named The Birmingham News Western Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2007; the Birmingham Quarterback Club Coach of the Year in 2006; and the “Bob Finley” Coach of the Year in 2007. At Wellborn, he received Calhoun County Coach of the Year honors from the Anniston Star in 2011, 2012; and 3A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Football Coaches Association in 2019. In 2014, he was chosen to coach in the North/South All Star game at Cramton Bowl and was selected as North head coach for the 2020 game. A special season was 2018 – when his daughter served as a WWHS cheerleader, his youngest son Jett played quarterback and his oldest son Judd served as an assistant coach on the football team. His wife Lisa, also a Walter Wellborn grad, was there as usual – with all their coaches and players that make up their extended family.

(Courtesy: AHSAA - www.ahsaa.com)

[Hear from Coach Smith in the featured video]

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