SYLACAUGA — Former SEC quarterback Chris Smelley has been hired as the new head football coach at Sylacauga High School.
He will be formally introduced and welcomed to SHS at a pep rally Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.
The Tuesday evening meeting where the Sylacauga board voted unanimously to hire him was packed with fans and well-wishers, and Smelley said he was impressed.
“I can see the excitement and the passion here in Sylacauga,” said Smelley, who played under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina in 2006-08. “I know this is where the Lord led me.”
He has seven seasons of experience as a head coach at his alma mater, American Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa.
“Coach Smelley was unanimously chosen by the interview committee as the number one candidate for the head football coach position at Sylacauga High School," Superintendent Dr. Michelle Eller said. "His proven track-record, as well as his character on and off the field are exactly what our athletes need to develop a program of excellence. I look forward to seeing our athletes sour under his leadership.”
Before playing for South Carolina, Smelley was a high school standout where he was recognized as a top 300 high school recruit in America by a national recruiting service. At South Carolina in 2008, he was sixth in the SEC in passing yards and fourth in touchdown passes.
After leaving South Carolina, he returned to Tuscaloosa, where he played catcher for the Alabama baseball team in 2009-10.
Smelley launched his coaching career as an assistant at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, then went to his alma mater, American Christian Academy, as offensive coordinator in 2012. He was promoted to head coach in 2014, taking a 5-6 team and changed the culture, leading to a 10-2 season and a second-round playoff match. Between 2014 and 2020, Smelley lead the Patriots to three straight state quarterfinal appearances and a state semifinal appearance in 2020. He had an overall record of 45-8, captured three straight region crowns and averaged 35 points a game.
He was named area coach of the year by the Tuscaloosa News in 2015 and 2018.
His most recent position before coming to the Marble City was as quarterback coach at Class 7A Hoover High School starting in 2021. There, he was credited with equipping the freshman quarterback with the tools he needed to compete at the Alabama High School Athletic Association's highest classification.
“After a very thorough search and interview process, we were able to land the best fit for Sylacauga High School football,” Athletics Director Chad WIlkinson said. “We are excited to bring Chris Smelley and his family to Sylacauga. He is a player’s coach and the type of person who will lead our student athletes to go the extra mile.”
Sylacauga High School Principal Gary Rivers agreed.
“I am thrilled to welcome Chris to Sylacauga as part of our Aggie family," he said. "This decision was not taken lightly by our administration or the interview committee. (His) fast-paced brand of football is one that we believe will get the most athletes on the field, and give us the best chance to win at Sylacauga. Chris knows, as we do, this will not be an overnight culture change, but we have full faith that he can take Sylacauga football where it needs to go.”
Smelley and his wife, Josie, have four children: Coleman, Cannon, Franklin and Mackie.