That Lovie feeling again
"Modest" might be too modest a word to describe this little road in this little town in this large, not-exactly modest state.I nice story there is more back ground information on his career at the link above. Before it was famous as the home of Lovie Smith, Big Sandy had been famous for some state championship basketball teams in the late 1950's where some native Indians used two handed set shots from the outside to win. And, the Dallas Cowboys, I bet they are wishing they had hired Lovie Smith three years ago. He is a character guy in the best sense of the word.
There is but a single house on this street, though there are churches at each end of this relative mini-trail that barely stretches a tenth of a mile.
"Tain't two blocks long," was one local's representation of the road that is lined by trees and covered with leaves this time of winter.
In his day — when he was a tight end and a terror at linebacker on the local high school football team — Lovie Smith could cover the ground from one end of this street to the other, from Lyles to Border, in less than 20 seconds.
Church Street, as it was then called, stops at each end of Big Sandy (map). But Church Street didn't stop Lovie Smith. If anything, it started him.
Typically when one gets away from such a street — a street where he grew up poor in a household held together by a hardworking mother and nearly torn apart by a heavy-drinking father — he leaves it behind and never looks back. But Smith took Church Street with him on his travels.
And last summer, some 30 years after his high school graduation, when he returned for a ceremony in which the street was renamed Lovie Smith Drive, it was as if he had never left.
Smith's latest journey was the road to Super Bowl XLI, where his Chicago Bears will face the Indianapolis Colts in Miami on Feb. 4.
Church Street will be with him, as will all 1,288 residents of his hometown.
This is Cowboys country (about 100 miles east of Dallas), but there are "Go Bears!" signs all over town.
The big news this week is there is a big to-do planned for Super Bowl Sunday. The NFL would not allow Indianapolis to broadcast the game on screens at the RCA Dome because of its television contract. The league won't bother to shut down Big Sandy's party.
Mayor Sony Parsons says there will be a pregame parade, with bands and cheerleaders, and he has invited the city to watch the game on a wide-screen projector at the Big Sandy Church of Christ, where they plan to make venison chili for 500 and root on Lovie and the Bears.
Many remember the numbers from Smith's 14-0 senior season. The team trailed only once, 2-0 to Groom in a state final Big Sandy won 28-2. The number 824 stands out. That's how many points the Wildcats scored that season (58.9 per game), a national record that stood for two decades.
The long, winding road to coaching stardom began in Big Sandy with the Wildcats' junior varsity. After a short stint at a prep school in Tulsa, Smith got his first college job at his alma mater.
Over the next 14 years, he made stops at Wisconsin, Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio State before Tony Dungy brought him to the NFL to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers in 1996. Eight seasons later, the Bears were so blown away by his interview they offered him a head coaching job.
In his third season, he has led the Bears to the Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years.
"He always wanted to go far in football, and this is about as far as you can go, I would guess," said Smith's mother Mae Smith, who lives in Tyler. "I always told him that if he kept going and worked hard he would one day be the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. I had that dream for him. Of course, that was the only team we had ever heard of back then."
Last summer the city offered to name one of the downtown streets for him, but Smith told them if they wanted to do that, he would prefer it be the little street he grew up on.
Whether he wins the Super Bowl this year, Lovie, whose father Thurman was sober for 20 years before he passed away in 1996, can tell stories of how little boys who live on little roads can have big dreams that come true.