Friday was a sad day for the Lonoke Jackrabbits family.
About 7:30 in the morning, I was perusing Facebook and came across a photo, basically telling the world that we had lost one of our coaches and teachers from Lonoke High School.
Assistant football coach and head softball coach Larry Don Smith had passed away from a long illness on Thursday, Feb. 21, at about 11 p.m. Smitty, as he was known by people close to him, had been suffering from severe diabetes for several years and had to use a wheelchair some. In fact, during the 2011 football season, Smitty was not able to coach on the field while assisting Tim Scarborough with the junior high program. However, he could be seen sitting on the track in his motorized chair, yelling at his offensive linemen. Those boys were smart enough to listen to what Coach Smith was telling them.
Smitty came to Lonoke prior to the 2002 season after working many years at Sheridan. He joined Marcel Vincent on the Lonoke staff when Vincent was hired as the Jackrabbits head coach following a three-year stint with the Yellowjackets.
My first encounter with Coach Smith was during the 1999 softball season. He was coaching the Lady Yellowjackets in the first year of fastpitch softball when they beat Cabot in an extra inning game in Cabot. That team went on to win the state championship — the first sanctioned state fastpitch championship. That is something he was always proud of and something that I made sure that the public knew.
Smitty did not become the Lonoke softball coach until a few years after he came to Lonoke. However, he seemed to enjoy being on the field again, working with the female athletes at Lonoke High School.
Last year was a real challenge for him. Smitty was not able to coach on the field but from outside the dugout because of the issues with his legs. That did not stop him from making sure the girls knew what he wanted done during a game.
Coach Smith loved to give me a hard time, as well as others that knew him well. In fact, one time, Smitty told me that if I ever put his picture in the paper that he would burn my house down. I responded, "Coach, it’s already burned down once." He said, "okay" with a laugh.
With that said, Coach Smith would do anything to help me out with scores, stats, anything I needed to help give his players the publicity they deserved.
And one last thing. When my wife and I adopted Emmy from China, he told me that his wife Gail was making us a baby blanket. They didn’t have to do that. But it was really special to me that someone would take the time to do that for our family. I’ll never forget that.
Coach, thank you so much for everything. The impact you’ve had on your students/athletes over the years, including those in Lonoke, will last forever.