HAMPTON, VA (WTKR)- Mike Smith had hoped to coach football for another few years, but his body told him it was time to hang up his whistle.
"I've got two torn hamstrings," he said on Thursday during a retirement party in Hampton. "I just can't get around in the areas that I like to coach and be effective."
While Smith may have physical limitations that will keep him from coaching, his legacy is rock solid. He's been the head coach at Hampton for 51 years, compiling 506 victories on the sideline, good enough for the third on the national all-time high school football wins list. He led the Crabbers to a VHSL record 12 state championships and put together a 506-99-2 record as a head coach. Smith said the 500 win mark wasn't really something he had zeroed in on and it didn't play a factor in his decision to step away from the sideline.
"That was never a mark of mine to achieve," Smith said. "As it approached I guess I became aware of it."
This year's Hampton squad went 9-2 on the season, falling to Woodside in the Region 4A semifinals at Darling Stadium. The Crabbers' only regular season loss came to arch rival Phoebus, a 14-7 nail-biter on the field that both share and call home.
"It's been great, but I like to get down and get in the middle of things coaching and I just can't do it anymore," Smith said.
Smith as led talented players at Hampton that have gone onto play premier college football and in the NFL. Robert Banks, Ronald Curry, Tyrod Taylor, Elton Brown and Marques Hagans are among those who saw time at the highest level after their days in a Crabber uniform. The relationships he formed and lives he touched during his career are countless and he pointed out on Thursday that the most important thing to him was developing his players as men.
"They've got to learn to respect each other and love each other as teammates," he said of his philosophy. "If they couldn't discipline themselves and had a problem, they couldn't be on that team."
Hampton will hire a new football coach in hopes of sustaining the success, but Smith's work has built one of the most recognizable brands in the state of Virginia. He plans to spend a lot of time at the beach as he transitions into retirement.