Former Titans quarterback Rusty Smith is working as an assistant football coach at Grace Christian Academy, an eight-man team in Leiper’s Fork.
Grace Christian, a fourth-year program, takes a 1-1 record into tonight’s game against Webb.
Smith, 27, was a backup for Tennessee from 2010-13, appearing in three games.
“Coaching is always something I’ve wanted to do,” Smith said. “I love football, I have a passion for kids and I think I have a calling as far as mentoring young men, helping teen-age boys become men.”
Smith met Grace Christian baseball coach Brad Myers when he held the same job at Battle Ground Academy.
“We have become pretty close friends and when he got the baseball gig here I was really just looking for a place to work out,” Smith said. “He said, ‘Well, just come work out at our weight room facility.’ And things just started rolling from there and I started helping out with the football team and it turned into a job.”
Grace Christian coach/athletic director Daniel Bechman said Smith has made a smooth adjustment to eight-man football.
“It’s a transition for him, from 11-man to eight-man, but he’s got such a deeper knowledge of how to slice and dice the field from a quarterback’s view,” Bechman said. “I’m a lineman at heart and I like to run the ball, but the plan this year is to be able to open the playbook a bit more.”
Smith has made a quick impact in his five weeks with the team.
“He’s got such a great presence with all our young men,” Bechman said. “He’s been able to motivate and push and encourage. He brings such a fresh perspective and attitude to our school and our young men, his learning curve is very minimal.”
Grace Christian is a 6-year-old school. The junior class is the oldest at school and seniors will be added next year.
Smith was cut in June by the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League after signing with the team earlier in the month.
The New York Giants released Smith in May after signing him in April. Smith (6-5, 226) worked out for New Orleans in April, but didn’t sign with the Saints.
Smith loves coaching, but hasn’t ruled out a return to playing quarterback in the pros.
“That’s definitely something that I pray about and I look for guidance often,” Smith said. “Whatever the Lord has planned for me I will gladly do it and embrace it with open arms. If that means that I’m not going to play football again then I’m content with that, but if a team calls and wants me to come do a workout and wants me to play the last couple games of the season because of injuries that’s definitely something that me and my wife might definitely do.”
He was a four-year starter for Florida Atlantic, where he was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2007.
Smith led the Owls to two bowl game victories. He was awarded the New Orleans Bowl Most Valuable Player award in 2007 and the Motor City Bowl Most Valuable Player for 2008.
He became the first FAU player to be drafted by the NFL when Tennessee took him in the sixth round in 2010.
Smith set school records with 10,112 career passing yards and 76 touchdowns.
He believes there is great potential at Grace Christian.
“The amount of athletes that we have already at a young school is incredible to me,” Smith said. “We have a long way to go. But the plan and foundation are here. I can fully see GCA being one of the dominant presences here in Middle Tennessee in five years, no questions about that.”
Contributing: Maurice Patton