POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River celebrated its second homecoming Thursday when the school announced it has hired Wildcat alum Seth Smith to lead its football program.
"We are thrilled to welcome Coach Smith and his family back home to Pearl River Community College. He emulates everything we want on our campus and to lead our football program," Pearl River President Dr. Adam Breerwood said. "His passion and energy are contagious. Seth wore the Pearl River uniform and embraces the enormity of this responsibility. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to build champions on and off the field.
"I look forward to what the future holds for our football program under Coach Smith's leadership."
Smith takes over the Wildcats after seven seasons leading East Central High School.
"We are excited to welcome Coach Smith and his family to our institution," PRCC athletics director Jeff Long said. "Coach Smith is a tremendous leader who has shown the ability to lead a program to championship standards.
"We're excited to see Coach Smith lead our student athletes to great heights on and off the field."
Smith grew up 15 minutes from campus in Millard, Mississippi and is a proud native of the Sones Chapel community. He starred at Pearl River Central High before signing with PRCC.
"This is home. It all started here," Smith said. "For me personally, there was a lot of growth here, from learning how to go from a young boy to learning how to become a young man.
"Not just from a football standpoint but a personal standpoint, this is a special place to me."
When Smith signed with Pearl River in the spring of 1999, the state's districts were still closed. Luckily, Smith was offered by then-Wildcat coach Keith Daniels as a quarterback. As Smith explains, he soon found his calling on the opposite side of the ball after PRCC hired coach Scott Maxfield.
"He came in and did a phenomenal job," Smith said of Maxfield. "I was a little better at tackling people than throwing a football and he brought in a guy named Charlie Reeve who was a lot like Joe Montana, so it was pretty clear to me I probably better go tackle people at linebacker."
During his time playing for Daniels and Maxfield, Smith saw firsthand what the Wildcats were capable of achieving.
"I'm truly humbled to have this opportunity to come back here," Smith said. "I do realize the magnitude of this job and what a great opportunity it is to coach these young men that we're fixing to coach."
Smith got his coaching start at Picayune from 2004-08, where he coached running backs and defensive backs before taking over as defensive coordinator. He spent the next four seasons at PRC as the DC.
Then in 2013, Smith got the chance to build his own program at East Central. The Hornets took their lumps early on, but Smith molded ECHS into a perennial contender. The team made its first playoff appearance in 12 years in 2014. The Hornets proceeded to win their first playoff game and then first second round victory in '15 and '16.
The following season was one for the ages as the Hornets had an undefeated regular season and advanced all the way to the MHSAA Class 4A State Championship game. ECHS played for a South State title again in 2018. This year, despite moving up a classification to 5A, the Hornets still made the playoffs.
During his seven seasons in Hurley, Smith compiled a 53-34 record, including 13-1 and 12-1 marks in '17 and '18.
"It's that kind of stuff that drives me," Smith said of the turnaround in Hurley. "When you look and say 'you can't' or 'what are you doing', in my mind I'm thinking, humbly, we're fixing to show you what we're doing. The good Lord says all things are possible — not some — so it can be done. It just takes a tremendous amount of work and the amount of belief that's involved, you really can't put into words what that takes.
"I've been blessed to coach some awesome kids."
During his time at ECHS, Smith built relationships with the Coast's top coaches as well as college recruiters from throughout the Southeast.
He also fostered a relationship with the community.
As a native son of Pearl River County, Smith realizes the importance of doing the same thing at PRCC.
"It will be the difference in us living here three years or us living here 10 years — or longer," he said. "If we reestablish that — which is the goal — then the sky is the limit. That's how they did it in the past. Kids like me in the past, this is all you knew. This is where you went. That's been lost a little bit. I have to do a great job helping surround this staff and this program with people who understand the value in that. That honestly will be the difference in us winning and losing. We have to have kids from Poplarville, from Picayune, from Hancock, from Bay St. Louis, from P.R.C., from Lumberton, Hattiesburg, Oak Grove, Petal. We have to fill it with that and then hopefully be blessed enough to bring some other great players here.
"If we can win our district, we can win on the field. That will be one of the ultimate goals for us as coaches. The kids who always used to come here, we have to get them back. If we get them back, we'll win."
Seth and his wife, Devin, were high school sweethearts who attended The River together, with Seth playing football and Devin cheering. They have four children, Tucker, Tyke, Titan and Trac.
Family and faith played the ultimate roles in Smith's decision of leaving a place that had become a second home.
"I have four boys. My time at East Central was amazing. I always thought I would coach my kids in high school," he said. "I just told my wife last year; we had some other opportunities and I said we're not doing that. We're going to stay here and be here at least 10 more years in Hurley because it's a phenomenal place — as good of a place as there is on Earth.
"Here we are a year later and I'm the head coach at Pearl River Community College. It's a reminder as a man that you can set a 10-year plan but if the good Lord's going to move you, you're fixing to pack up and move. We're sitting here for that reason."
Smith holds an associate degree in General Studies from PRCC, a bachelor's degree in Coaching/Administration from Southern Miss and a master's in Secondary Education from William Carey.
LIST OF PEARL RIVER FOOTBALL COACHES SINCE 1924
Goat Hale 1924-38
Dick Baxter 1939-42, 1944 (No team in 1943 due to World War 2)
L.W. Johnson 1945
James Wade 1946-47
Dobie Holden 1948-66
John Russell 1967-73
Harvey Seligman 1974
J.C. Arban 1975-84
Mike Nelson 1985-89
Willie Coats 1990-94
Keith Daniels 1995-2000
Scott Maxfield 2001
Tucker Peavey 2002 (Left position without coaching a game)
Tim Hatten 2002-12
William Jones 2013-15
David Saunders 2016
Ted Egger 2017-19
Seth Smith Present
Pearl River Community College
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