Legendary Garner football Nelson Smith coach continues giving back to town through retirement

The Blitz

GARNER, N.C. (WNCN) – Nelson Smith patrolled the sidelines for 36 years as the head coach at football powerhouse Garner. He led them to 11 conference titles in his tenure before becoming the school’s athletic director.

Smith retired three years later, convinced that golf and fishing would be enough to fill the free time.

He was wrong.

“When you grow up working all your life, you kind of like to get out and get moving and find something to do,” Smith said. “Just sitting around is not good for anybody.”

So, Smith decided to get back to work.

“Most of my fishing and golfing buddies, they were still working,” Smith said. “So, I kind of got bored playing golf and fishing by yourself, so after 10 months, I decided I needed something.”

Smith has driven a truck around town picking up sticks and waste for the past three years.

“You get up early in the morning and get going,” Smith said. “Like, right now, it’s 10 o’clock. I’m going to go dump and head back to the shop and I’ll have the rest of the afternoon off and can go play golf.”

Believe it or not, there are similarities between coaching and what Smith is doing now.

“There’s a lot of game planning,” Smith said. “Especially when you start out because you have to learn the routes. The routes can take you all over the Town of Garner, so you start figuring out how to make the route quicker.”

Smith, 63, is thankful for his job. Still, he said nothing quite compares to the three-and-a-half decades he spent on the gridiron.

“You miss the kids. You miss the assistant coaches,” Smith admitted. “The best friends I had were assistant coaches, and a lot of them are still here, so I’ll come watch the games on Friday night.”

When Monday morning rolls around, Smith will be back at work bright and early.

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