PACE — Kent Smith, Jay High School’s former head football coach, is Pace High School’s new top football coach.

Mickey Lindsey, Smith’s predecessor, recently retired after coaching the Patriots for 25 years. Smith — who spent more than 20 years as Lindsey’s coaching assistant before coming to Jay — shares more about his new role.

How does it feel to return to Pace High School as the new head football coach?

The biggest thing is that I come back after five years and all of the kids are rotated out, so I really know very few of the kids. I am very familiar with the coaches; most of the coaches I have (I) either coached with or coached, and a few here I may have coached against.

What’s the atmosphere like?

It has been very good. I haven’t been out in the community a lot yet. I have been here in the office and here with the kids most of the time. A lot of teachers here, I know. So I have seen a lot of faces that I knew for a long time. That has been nice.

I think one of the great things about Pace High School is the kids, and that is what I am excited about. I see these kids come down here everyday, and they are hungry to get to work also. 

Will coaching a larger school’s football team be more challenging?

It’s going to be different, going (from) where you have a small number of kids to a large number of kids. I was used to that five years ago, and I kind of got out of that mentality, and now I have to get back in it.

What are your impressions about the Patriots?

I have watched some of the film from last year, and I have been in the weight room with them. We do have a great senior class coming in. We got a tailback in Anthony Johnson (Jr., who) I think was second in the state last year with 2,100 yards rushing. They have lost quite a few numbers in which they have grown up, and that is usual, but I am excited about this senior class.

Will you focus more on the running game?

We are going to continue to run it, that is for sure, and we want to be able to throw it some, too. The best teams we had threw the ball, but you have to do what your kids are able to do. It is going to look different, but it is not going to be that different.

What’s it like to take over a football program that Lindsey led for 25 years?

I am humbled to be replacing Coach Lindsey. I have a lot of respect for Coach Lindsey, and I worked for him for many years. He had a special thing here.

It wasn’t my goal to replace him when I left here. I felt called to go to Jay and, once (this position) opened up, I just considered it and then went after it and was able to get it.

After working under Lindsey for many years, I’m sure you learned a lot…

I think anytime you are with somebody for 20 years, that what he does and the person he is, rubs off on you.

Yeah, there is no doubt that some of mine and his philosophies will be the same, as far as dealing with kids, being here for kids and trying to help kids. That is the main reason I think both of us are in this business: trying to help kids and, along the way, win football games.

But the most important thing is to help these kids become better men, better husbands, better fathers and, if I wasn’t in it for that reason, I would have never gone to Jay or I wouldn’t came down here.