The weight room, freshly painted with words of school pride and murals of the ferocious mascot, testifies to the rebirth of the football program.
Wellborn lured Smith back home nearly a year ago, after the team posted back-to-back 1-9 seasons. In 2009, he coached the Panthers to a 4-7 record and a trip to the playoffs – the first, he hopes, of many.
"Revival is in our blood," Smith said.
Smith inherited a roster with 16 players. The team now has more than 100 student-athletes in the program.
Senior wide receiver and linebacker J.D. Phillips said players and parents alike quickly bought in to Smith's philosophy of rebuilding Wellborn's football program, in large part because many of the parents already knew the coach.
Like many team fathers, Phillips' dad played football with Smith at Wellborn, in his case for one year in 1983.
"My dad had trust in him," Phillips said, "and I'm going to have trust in what my dad says."
Teachers, parents and players call Smith the Energizer Bunny and say he has had a revitalizing effect on the team, school and community.
"He brought in a new energy,'' school secretary Pat Brooks said. ''He told them he cared.''
When colleagues questioned Smith's decision to leave Class 6A powerhouse Hueytown to coach a struggling 3A team, all he could think about were the thrills of his childhood in Wellborn, such as the sounds of the Wellborn marching band drifting into his backyard on fall Friday nights. That was his cue, he said, to hurry to the stadium as a kid.
"I was in a frenzy until I got to the game," he said.
Smith got in the game in the 1980s under coach Mike Battles, and he started at linebacker and on the offensive line for three years at Jacksonville State.
In 18 years, he held six coaching jobs, including working with Battles at Hueytown and Gautier. He landed a second time at Hueytown in 2003, where he took the Golden Gophers from a 23-game losing streak to four playoff series in the six seasons.
"I like the climb," Smith said of the adversities a program faces in the rebuilding process. "You forget the pain. Nobody ever remembers the pain."
The pain comes in places like the weight room, where players are bulking up before the start of spring training. The room is also a victory for the team.
Smith, with the help of parents and school supporters, converted an old P.E. locker room into a zone equipped for a full weight-lifting regimen. Nearly 100 students use it, a number that just last year was out of reach for Wellborn's football program. Previously the small weight room in the basketball gym accommodated all sports teams and P.E. classes.
Facilities like the new weight room are integral in rebuilding the program, Smith said, because they attract the most important part: players. Such a feat is not difficult in a place like Wellborn, he said.
"There's not a whole lot to do here," Smith said of diversions that compete for athletes' attention. "If you have the weight room and facilities open, they're going to be here."
Of his three children, Judd, Leah and Jett, Smith said his eldest son Judd adapted to the move the quickest. Judd was headed into the ninth grade, so he was already prepared for a transition, but he was also eager to be close to his extended family.
Judd said he looked forward to having his grandparents at his football games. It didn't matter that he would play at a smaller school.
"People laughed at my dad for leaving a 6A job, but now they understand that it's about home," Judd said. "He wanted to make a difference, and he did. Teams made fun of us (Wellborn). We used to be known as a hard-hitting team. We have to prove to everybody we still are."
One thing Judd and his father didn't anticipate was his landing a spot on the varsity team his first year in Wellborn. He certainly didn't expect to be the Panther's starting quarterback.
When the opportunity arose, however, Judd showed he had true Wellborn blue-collar blood coursing through his veins.
It was hard work, he said, to go from a 0-3 start to clinching a playoff berth, an achievement he called a whole team effort he was proud to be part of.
"People didn't think we'd make it," Judd said. "But now we're bigger, stronger, faster and everybody is behind us."
When Judd talks about the state championships, he doesn't say "if," he says "when."
"I'm not scared of other teams," he said. "No one on the team is. When we win state championships, we're going to show them Wellborn is back and they better watch out."
Coach Smith isn't surprised to hear such strong conviction coming from his son. It's part of the Wellborn psyche, which Smith plans to tap in rebuilding the football program.
"This community identifies with having a tough team," Smith said.
That's why the Panthers' playing style appears to mirror the blue-collar community. Coming from a place built on pipe shops and foundries, Wellborn's sons take pride in their roughness. So do their fans.
Smith wants to reclaim the reputation of Wellborn football that demanded opponents' respect and maybe included a little intimidation, especially when visiting teams faced the Panthers on their home field.
"When you play us on The Hill," Smith said, "you know we're going to get after you."
Once that physical play returns, Smith is confident the community's spirit and pride in the team will carry Wellborn football the rest of the way.
"The community expects to see them play hard, laying it out there," Smith said. "If they see that, they'll get behind it."
Coaching his alma mater, with the sons of former teammates and his own son at quarterback, has brought emotions Smith had not anticipated.
A win at Wellborn, Smith discovered, is not just another win.
"When they win on Friday, I'm prouder of them."