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BOUNCE BACK LIKE TENNIS BALL
Arizona long snapper 1983-85
Coach Smith was just a great person. His door was always open if you needed to talk.
During the season if it was your birthday you got to pick anyone in the organization and throw a pie in their face, I picked him my second year (his rules). He always found ways to have fun with the team.
One of my favorites, we just lost a game the week before and during practice the next week he had a helicopter fly over the practice field and they let loose tennis balls. All the balls had the words “Bounce Back”. Classic Larry! The entire team bounced those balls around campus all week.
EDITOR NOTE: Larry Smith carried the tennis ball motivation plan wherever he coached. When he coached at Missouri he brought up the idea to the Tigers’ soccer coach, who continues to supply tennis balls for his team when they need to bounce back.
Wow was my first reaction (to the news of Smith’s election to the Arizona Hall of Fame). It’s about time. Sorry that this man isn’t with us to enjoy this day. Now let’s fill the ceremony and give him that honor and respect. Congrats to the Smith Family.
He has been there for a lot of players. — David Adams
My first reaction was hallelujah! This honor is well deserved to a loving man, father and coach. After my father, Coach Smith is the second most influential male figure in my life. He taught us how to compete in everything we do in life. — Randy Robbins
“A COACH’S LOVE AND PLAYER’S THANK YOU”
Arizona defensive tackle/linebacker 1981-82
I just wanted to take some time to express how much I appreciate the life lessons that Coach Larry Smith taught me as a player and as a young man. I can’t think of a coach who could have made my experience at the University of Arizona more special.
Coach Smith took a chance on a young man from the inner city of Washington D.C. He kept his promise to do everything in his power to make sure I would graduate from college. He knew I could do it if I did what was expected of me in the classroom. He knew I was a football player, but he wanted more for my future.
Coach Smith was truly a standup guy who didn’t hold anything back. I remember he would call on me every Friday night during our team meetings to answer questions about my position, my opponent, and my assignment. Like clockwork, I would always place my hand over my face, but he knew I had the answer and was prepared for the game (accountability).
See, Coach Smith was both a player’s coach and a father figure. I remember when I had a personal problem off the field and the first thing he said to me was, “Sit down and tell me the truth.” I told him the truth and the rest is history. Yes, he disciplined me like any father would have and I had some major consequences for my actions, but he stuck by my side.
Coach Smith made that extra effort and he went that extra mile and he always made sure that I understood the life lessons that would define who I am. Without Coach taking that chance on me, I would not have become the man I am today. I’m able to provide for my family and give back to my community, because of the examples he set for me.
I could always count on Coach Smith even when he once spoke to me about coming to work for him at Missouri. That’s an example of a coach, man and father who really believed in family and he would take care of his own players like they were his children as long as you were doing the right things in life. I know how much Coach cared about his players, he loved us and always said, “Stand for what you believe in and never back down.”
Coach Smith meant more to be than just being my football coach, he was someone I could count on for extra help and clarification when I found myself in a dark place in life. He was really special and I will never forget those wins against USC, Notre Dame, Stanford and the tie against UCLA, because that man believed that 60 players together could not lose.
I will never forget my coach, mentor and father figure. Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of fun running the letter of the team we were scheduled to play that week or doing aerobics with Mrs. Smith as part of a cool down for conditioning. The mandatory swimming on Sundays at the pool, the ice cream chocolate sundaes we had every Friday night during pre-game meals and Coach coming to our rooms with a white pillow case filled with Snickers and Hershey bars (I guess that’s why I’m addicted to Snickers).
All this increased our learning, sharing and understanding of team. Coach Smith could always relate real-life examples to football and team that was coherent to his players, teams and coaches. In other words, he always had something of significance to say and related it to life and the way we live and carry ourselves.
I would like to say thank you to Coach Larry Smith and Cheryl Smith for believing in me and giving me a chance. This comes from my heart and soul. A coach’s love leaves a lasting impression on a young person life and opens doors and realities about life that last a lifetime.
I appreciate and love you both more than you will ever know! Congratulations on your induction into the University of Arizona Hall Of Fame an honor long overdue Coach.
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.