Lovie Smith was named the 25th head football coach in Illinois history yesterday. While he's revered by many, his road to the collegiate game has been a long and sometimes unclear one. Below I'll examine all the stops he's made along the way and how his previous jobs could impact his time in Champaign.
Before transitioning to the coaching game, Smith was a stand-out defensive end in high school. He earned Texas all-state honors three years in a row and helped lead his team to three consecutive state championships from 1973 to 1975, including his senior season when the defense he was apart of gave up only 15 points (!!) all season. Smith was offered a scholarship at the University of Tulsa and became a two-time All-American linebacker. He helped lead the Golden Hurricanes to a 9-2 record in 1978.
Once he graduated college, he immediately entered into the coaching game. Smith was hired as the defensive coordinator for his alma mater, Big Sandy High School in Texas, in 1980. He also coached defensive backs and wide receivers there. Continuing his track back through his alma maters, Smith then moved up to the collegiate level and was the linebacking coach at Tulsa for four years. He then made his way through Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio State over the next decade as a linebackers and/or defensive backs coach.
In 1996, after thirteen years coaching college athletes, Smith was offered the job as the linebacking coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by head coach Tony Dungy. This is where Lovie helped develop the original "Tampa 2 defense" which he is known for today. After five years of coaching in Tampa, the head coach of the Rams, Mike Martz, liked what he saw in Smith and hired him away to St. Louis. The 2001 Rams had a spectacular season defensively and won the NFC Championship before ultimately losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl 36.