Viera football program in good hands with Smith


New Viera High head football coach Derek Smith was the defensive coordinator for the Hawks.



Derek Smith wants to develop football players.

But that’s not where it ends for Viera High’s new head football coach.

He wants to help them develop into fine young men, too.

Perhaps that’s why Smith, 44, was the perfect choice to take over the Hawks football program after Kevin Mays announced last month he was leaving to become the athletic director at Tohopokeliga High in Osceola County.

As Viera’s defensive coordinator the past four seasons, Smith already was well known to his players. And as a lifelong friend of Mays, he was also well-versed in the concepts of how the Hawks’ program should be run.

“We’re real similar,” Mays said. “He’s going to be energetic. He’s going to stick to the details. He’s going to be there for the kids. He’s going to put the time in to win games.

“He is all the things that you would want out of a head coach.”

A 1991 graduate of Palm Bay High, Smith was a three-sport athlete for the Pirates before moving on to Chowan University, where he was a four-year starter on the defensive line and earned All-America honors.

Smith’s coaching career started as soon as his playing days ended. He coached the defensive line at Chowan under Jim Garrison and Lou Saban for two years before coming back to Palm Bay to serve as the Pirates’ defensive coordinator.

Not only did Palm Bay win two state titles, eight district championships and make four final four appearances during Smith’s time there, it was also when he and Mays — who was also coaching for the Pirates — started talking about what it would be like to take over a program together.

That would happen when Smith became head coach at Bayside, and with Mays as his offensive coordinator, the Bears went to two regional finals.

“We’ve always worked together on what we wanted to see and envision in a program,” Smith said. “That includes the offseason program, to how we should treat coaches to how we should treat players. We developed that concept at Bayside and then (Mays) brought the same concept and idea up here (seven years ago).

“Obviously, it’s something I’m going to continue because we branded it together. The only difference is, I’m going to have more of a defensive mentality in how I approach things.”

With offensive line coach Mike Degory moving into the offensive coordinator slot and former Eau Gallie head coach Tim Powers coming in to work with the quarterbacks and slot backs, the Hawks are expecting a smooth transition.

“(I’m impressed by) his ability to help his players understand the game of football,” senior defensive end James Klaas said. “The time and effort he puts in each week — no matter who we play — he puts in over eight hours of watching film on the weekends in his free time.

“I think, honestly, him stepping up is probably the best thing for the program right now.”

While Smith’s coaching philosophy is designed to help the Hawks become better football players, it goes far beyond the field.

“These guys are going to be future fathers,” he said. “We need to teach them now how to be young men now, and how to have that concept of being a great father.

“It starts with us shadowing those kids and making sure those kids look up to us, showing them by example how to be a good father.”

It’s no coincidence that a number of former Hawks can be seen on Viera’s sidelines during games.

“It’s because we develop relationships with the kids,” Smith said. “And that’s not going to stop.”