Former TJ Coach
Smitty Hill Dies
May 16, 2014
The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR — Smitty Hill,
former head coach of the Thomas Jefferson Yellow Jackets, died Thursday
night after battling with Alzheimer's for years. He was born in El
Paso on June 26, 1930 and was 83.
Hill coached the Yellow Jackets
from 1966 through 1971 and was known for bringing in a great passing game
to Port Arthur that led to a lot of Yellow Jackets points.
His record at TJ was 54-11-3
with his best season being in 1970. That year the Yellow Jackets started
the season 13-0 and had outscored opponents 485-93. TJ eventually lost to
Austin Reagan in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Nolton Prince graduated from TJ
in 1969 and played two seasons under Hill on the varsity level. Prince
went from always starting his first two years in high school to sitting
the bench to start his junior year.
“He always told me my time was
coming,” Prince said. “He was true to his word.”
Prince played all over the
field for the Yellow Jackets. He returned punts and kicks, ran the
football and even played on defense in the secondary.
“There were a lot of times I
didn't come off the field,” Prince said. “Coach Hill knew though when I
came running off the field with my tongue hanging out I needed a break.
“Smitty was just a great guy.
He was a mentor to several guys and he was ahead of his time. He could
tear a defense apart.”
Through the years Hill became
not only a coach to Prince but also a friend. The same can be said for
other players like Gary Hammond, Cotton Speyrer, Dennis Howell and Tighe
Huber. The former players also took it upon themselves to help out once
Hill became ill.
“He did the same for me,”
Prince said. “My mother was sick with cancer my senior year and Coach Hill
always made sure I had a way to get around from practice and to home
because my father spent a lot of time with my mother at the hospital.”
Hill took his coaching skills
to San Angelo but when he returned, Prince gained a companion.
“We would go to games
together,” Prince said. “Then when he got sick, it was a bad situation. I
always tried to shield him when he got Alzheimer's because he was
embarrassed. He was so good to everybody. We knew this day was coming but
it was still such a shock.”
Ronnie Thompson coached
the Yellow Jackets from 1978 through 1981 and also had a four-year stint
in the early 2000s. Thompson was filled with nothing but praise for Hill.
“Smitty was one heck of an
innovator,” Thompson said. “DI colleges didn't see offenses like the one
he ran at TJ. It was just so far advanced. He was just as good a person as
he was a coach. He was a fine Christian man. I can't think of one vice
that man had.”
Thompson described Hill's
offense as a horizontal and vertical attack in an age when a vast majority
of teams were happy with three run plays in a row to either pick up a
first down or settle for a punt.
“I remember when I was playing
in college and got injured I came down to watch them play in the
playoffs,” Thompson said. “They had Brazosport in the bi-district and
Brazosport had a huge team. They averaged 35 points. Well Brazosport got
their 35 put Smitty and the Yellow Jackets put up 62 or 63 that night.”
Thompson called Hill a tribute
to every community he spent time in through his years.
“He will definitely be missed,”
Thompson added. “People will come from far and away to that funeral. He
was a giant of a man. He always had talented players like Cotton and
Hammond but it all worked because of Smitty.”
Avid Nederland Bulldogs fan
Russ DeVillier watched Hill coach and always admired the way the Yellow
Jackets played during his tenure.
“As a Bulldogs fan, I can
remember the absolute frenzy of Yellow Jackets fans when Smitty led his
team onto the field,” DeVillier said. “And that was just the beginning.
Tension was in the air all night trying to slow down Smitty's volatile
Visitation will be held from 4
to 6 p.m. Monday at Levingston Funeral Home in Groves. A memorial service
will take place at the funeral home starting at 6 p.m. Monday.
Hill is survived by his wife,
Helen Hill, and his son, David Hill.