Harvey Smith, Jr. bringing football to Imani this fall
Posted May 27, 2011 5:24 pm
FinestPreps has been hitting the state of Pennsylvania up extremely hard over the past couple of weeks!
During our first month of high school football coverage we’ve delivered you plenty of Pennsylvania’s finest football prospects!
Today we’re bringing a special story to you about one football program in the Pittsburgh area that is starting from scratch.
Even though their football team will be brand new this fall (2011) don’t think for a second there aren’t some dynamic playmakers that fill out their roster.
More importantly, they’ve got a veteran head coach with an extensive background in high school football, college football, and even the NFL.
Who’s the head man who has decided to bring high school football to Imani Christian Academy (Pittsburgh, Pa.)?
That would be none other than Harvey Smith, Jr.–a 2004 inductee into the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame.
Smith was a dynamic quarterback for the Gateway Gators (Monroeville, Pa.) for two seasons back in 1980-1981.
He earned all-state honors at the signal-caller position, led Gateway to two conference titles, and a 21-3 overall record during that span.
After his high school career was finished, Smith walked on to play football for the West Virginia Mountaineers, where he eventually earned a scholarship.
As a receiver, he hauled in 58 catches for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns for his career at WVU.
He earned All-East honors while playing at WVU and was inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
The gifted receiver had brief stints of playing football professionally, both with the Calgary Stampders of the CFL and the Miami Dolphins of the NFL.
Collegiately, he’s coached football at Dusquene and Youngstown State.
On the high school football coaching level, he’s been the offensive coordinator for his brother at Gateway–(Gateway head coach Terry Smith).
He was also the head football coach at Kiski for one year.
Blessed with an extensive background in the game of football, Harvey Smith has undoubtedly had to lean upon his past experiences with the game to help him with his current monumentous challenge–bringing a football program to Imani Christian Academy.
Currently the athletic director at Imani Christian Academy–you would think that Smith already had his plate full.
Instead Coach Smith wanted to bring America’s most popular sport to ICA even though the school had zero funds for the program.
He’s faced several challenges along the way in building the football program at Imani Christian Academy.
This fall will be their first season–they will play an independent schedule this fall (2011) and then next fall (2012) will play a full blown schedule in the WPIAL.
Imani will kickoff their inaugural 2011 campaign this fall with a multiple different playmakers in their arsenal.
We’ll take a brief look at them below.
Sean Williams–(pictured at the top of page)–a game-breaking running back who played for Peabody as a sophomore, is blessed with excellent speed and agility in the open field. He’s a dynamic playmaker once the football is in his hands and he’s definitely one to keep your eyes on this fall for ICA. Williams is also a remarkably gifted graphic design artist and designed a few top notch graphics for FinestPreps.com.
Cortez Lucas is a gifted running back and cornerback who Coach Smith believes can play at the Division I-A level someday. He’s blessed with tremendous football talent.
Michael Wolford is one of the top prospects in the 2013 recruiting class according to Coach Smith. He told me yesterday that he thinks Wolford be one of the best wide receivers in the WPIAL in two years. Just how good is this kid? Smith has coached ultra-talented class of 2012 wide receiver Corey Jones (Penn Hills) and Coach Smith thinks Wolford is just as talented.
Eric Scott–Scott is an ultra-talented wide receiver who also plays basketball for Imani Christian Academy. He’s a tremendous talent and one to keep your eyes on in terms of playing big-time (Division I-A) college football down the road. Scott has that potential, according to Coach Smith. The class of 2013 prospect averaged 6.8 points per game, 3.0 assists per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, and 1.2 steals per game last year for ICA basketball. He’s Imani’s All-American student-athlete. He carries a 4.0 GPA and has All-American athletic potential, according to Coach Smith. Coach Smith compares his game to Dayonne Nunley (Miami Redhawks) formerly of Gateway and Imani. Dayonne has gone on to be a freshman All-American at Miami of Ohio. Coach Smith spoke highly of Scott saying, “Eric has the same type ability and just does everything well. He’s gifted athletically with rare speed and has intelligence to go along with toughness. Eric is a throwback athlete that plays multiple sports and sees the benefits of being well rounded. He’s a shut down cornerback as well as outstanding wide receiver.”
FinestPreps.com caught up with Coach Smith recently to discuss the challenges of building the program at Imani Christian Academy, his outlook for the 2011 season, and many other topics.
Below is the interview.
FinestPreps.com Interview with Imani Christian Academy Head Football Coach/Athletic Director Harvey Smith, Jr.
FinestPreps.com: First off, Coach Smith, talk about what made you decide to take on the challenge of forming a new football team at the charter school?
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “Actually we’re a private christian school and we’re not a charter school. I say that to make this point–you used the word challenging–this is probably if not THE biggest challenge I’ve had in my life, it’s absolutely up in the top five. We are not a charter school which means we do not get public funding like charter schools do. That in itself is a tremendous challenge because we’re trying to start a football program and we don’t have any funds for it. There’s a zero budget for our football so we’re literally having to build this program nail by nail, dollar by dollar, piece by piece. That in itself is a tremendous challenge for me.”
FinestPreps.com: What would you say are your expectations heading into the first season, Coach?
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “Being realistic and honest with you–we have zero expectations. We’re not going to approach it from a standpoint that we want to go out and win x amount of games. When I say literally we’re starting from the ground up, that’s literally what we’re doing. We have in the neighborhood of 25-30 young men who are pretty much committed to playing football and making this challenge something special for me–just in the fact that they’re committed to showing up and giving me the best effort that they have. We don’t have any expectations in terms of wins or losses but the thing that we do know is that we’re a Christian school. We will come out and be as competitive as possible.”
FinestPreps.com: Coach I know your brother Terry Smith is the head coach at Gateway. Talk about how you’ve leaned upon him for advice throughout the process of building this football program.
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “Well Terry and I, we’re brothers as you said and I’m actually Terry’s older brother by five years. We’ve obviously have always had a great relationship both personally as well as professionally. We’ve always made it a habit of bouncing ideas off of each other–be it him giving me a call during the season and asking my advice. So obviously as I’m going through this process I talk to Terry. I probably talk to Terry about four or five times a day, just getting his opinion, asking advice, and asking him how he handles things. He does the same thing with me.”
FinestPreps.com: What’s been the toughest part of building the program so far for you Coach besides the funding aspect?
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “The toughest part is we don’t have facilities. We don’t have equipment. So basically all we have right now is myself, two other coaches, and we have the young men that show up everyday to come to practice. That in itself has been the biggest challenge. We don’t have facilities and the first several weeks we were practicing on concrete, rocks, cinders, and those kinds of things like that. That’s a challenge that other kids don’t have to deal with but at the end of the day, when we look at these young men walking off the field it makes it well worth these challenges we have ahead of us.”
FinestPreps.com: What made you decide to get into football coaching, Coach Smith?
Harvey Smith, Jr.: Here at Imani–my football background is pretty extensive–between playing, student coaching, graduate assistant in college. I’ve been in football my entire life so it’s just been something that’s been part of my everyday life. When I came over here to Imani as the athletic director, one of my responsibilities and goals was to expand our athletic department. Previously we’ve just had girls basketball and boys basketball at Imani so coming in I wanted to make it a full-scale athletic department that can compete with other public schools in our surrounding area. So we added football, we added track, and I do want to mention that our track team had two National Championship relay teams. Our junior high girls team won a National Championship in the Christian League as well as our high school boys–which won a National Championship in the 400-meter relay as well. But we wanted to make sure that we added football. Football is the number one sport in this country. Everybody in this country loves football, as I do, so I wanted to make sure that our young men had the opportunity to play football here.”
FinestPreps.com: Talk about what kind of role models you had growing up that made you want to get involved into athletics, Coach, as an athletic director and as a coach.
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “Well that’s a great question. I had the ultimate role model number one–being God. I learned that from my mother. My mother is a very strong, spiritual woman. But I also had a natural role model in my father–who was a tremendous man. My father spent many, many, many days and hours working with not only myself but my younger brother Terry as well. We had a great role model right at home every day. Unfortunately for a good part of the young men that go to the school at Imani Christian–a vast majority of these young men do not have role models in their lives. That was one of the reasons that I did come to Imani is to try to give back to the community and serve these young men–to hopefully be a positive role model in their life.”
FinestPreps.com: Go ahead and talk about some of your players. What kind of personnel do you have heading into the first season?
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “Coming into the first season, I’m real pleased. In fact, we did a couple of 7-on-7 already and some of our young men have already competed in some of the other 7-on-7 tournaments and combines throughout Western Pennsylvania. We have a young man named Sean Williams who’s a sophomore running back (class of 2013) that’s been attending Imani for a number of years. He’s definitely an up and coming star running back. He’s a sophomore this year, going into his junior year. But he’s an outstanding young football player, who, in my opinion, has scholarship potential (Division I-A). I also have a wide receiver named Eric Scott who doubles up and plays basketball for us here at Imani. He’s also an outstanding young man, who in my opinion, scholarship potential (Division I-A). Those are gonna be the two main talents behind our football team. We have an extremely young team, obviously, because we’re just starting the program. We’ve got a lot of sophomores with potential to really develop into tremendous football players. Then two other names that I wanted to mention were Michael Wolford and Cortez Lucas. I think those four young men are gonna be the leaders of our football team. I think they’re really gonna surprise some of these WPIAL teams that we play next year and then their senior years I think they’ll be outstanding football players.”
FinestPreps.com: Coach, your football program–is it Varsity and JV? How does it work?
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “The majority of our players next year will be ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders. So the way our schedule is gonna go–we will play some Varsity games and we’ll play a few JV games in addition to that. But we expect to be full-blown, playing a full WPIAL schedule the following year (fall of 2012).
FinestPreps.com: So are the teams split into JV and Varsity or right now is it just one big team?
Harvey Smith, Jr.: “It’s just gonna be one big team. That’s correct.”
FinestPreps will keep you posted on the progress of the ICA football program and their talented playmakers in the future!
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Wade Peery is the senior writer for FinestPreps.com. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. All comments and feedback are welcome!
Check out the sophomore highlights of Sean Williams below (#10) when he played for Peabody! He will play for ICA this fall!