Words and Photo By Steven Hicks

Meet Viera High’s new football coach, Derek Smith.

“The players here expect to be student athletes, not athletes who go to school.” – Derek Smith

In many towns, the hierarchy goes like this; mayor, revered pastor or priest, police chief, football coach. And it isn’t always in that order. Viera is a little different; we don’t have our own mayor (we’re considered unincorporated Brevard), we have many awesome pastors and priests, and our police chief belongs to the county. But we do have our own football coach. So, what is a community to do when that popular coach and community icon takes a new position a couple of counties away? Viera High chose to turn to his best friend, who just happened to be coaching right alongside him. To say Coach Derek Smith has stepped into Coach Kevin Mays’ shoes isn’t really accurate — Smith was the other shoe in that pair all along.

So, Viera football faithful, rest easy; Smith has this down. “It really wasn’t much of a change to be honest with you, because the fact is, I grew up with Kevin,” Smith explains. “We have been buddies since the 5th grade, playing basketball together. That’s how we met through youth sports.”

Appropriately, their roles have flipped from time to time. Smith says, “Mays worked for me at one point, but it was the same relationship as me working for him. As a head coach, I knew there was a whole part of the team I didn’t have to worry about because I completely trusted everything he was going to do.”

Smith continued, “We had always talked about how we were going to take over a team one day. It was never me or him. We knew the other was going to go with whoever got the first call.” When Smith had the opportunity to be the athletic director and head football coach at Bayside, it was a no brainer; Mays was Smith’s first call. “We took a struggling Bayside football program and turned it into a state contender. We even raised the team GPA by a half point.”

Faced with a health crisis in his family, Smith decided to take a year away from coaching. “I needed to focus on my family. We focus so much on our extended football family, that we sometimes neglect our immediate family.” Toward the end of that year, Mays became head coach at Viera High and reached out to Smith to be his right hand. “At the time, my son was in elementary school and my daughter was in 8th grade. From an educational standpoint, Viera offered us great potential, and education is the best investment we could ever make in our children.”

Smith says, “Coming here, I realized that we have a great administration, athletics, and remarkable parental and community involvement. The student body here supports athletics tremendously. The student culture is very positive, as is the educational culture. The players here expect to be student athletes, not athletes who go to school.”

Smith moved to Viera a few weeks ago. “To be able to walk out my door and be five minutes from The Avenue and know that my kids are driving a golf cart to their friends’ homes and not getting on I-95, it’s awesome. One of my coaches said he was stopped at Walmart by an older gentleman who showed him his Hawks shirt and said, ‘We love having you in the community.’ It makes you feel that small town atmosphere, even though we’re a large school. It’s great to be part of all of this.” ◆