Just a few weeks after Garner Magnet High School’s long-tenured athletic director, Doc Harrell, retired, school authorities found themselves in unfamiliar territory.
As the résumés began to pile up, and the decisions were being made, in the end there was just one choice that perfectly fit into the plans of the school.
On Tuesday, June 26, long time varsity football coach Nelson Smith was informed that he would be taking over the reigns as GMHS’s new athletic director.
Since 1983, Smith has been a part of the sports programs at GMHS, where he has helped build a perennial championship team on the football field.
When asked why Smith was the right choice, Principal Drew Cook said, “He was the right man at the right time. He was the right fit for what we are doing right now.”
However, Smith is more than just the right choice. He has a “high level of integrity,” Cook said. “Because of the awesome work of Doc Harrell, we were looking for someone to fill the shoes and keep the work going. Without question, he is highly qualified.”
When Harrell retired, he left an athletic department that was competing at a very high level. And as Smith prepares to step in, Cook feels that Garner athletics will continue to succeed.
“There is no reason that we can’t maintain the level of competition,” Cook said.
With big shoes to fill, Smith believes his biggest challenge will be to make sure “all the student athletes are kept in top notch.”
While Smith’s main sport is football, he knows that with taking on the athletic director position he will have to get familiar with some other sports, too.
“I am going to learn. I am going to lean on people to help me learn,” Smith said.
One of those people that will help him learn will be Harrell.
“I will definitely pick up the phone and give him a call,” Smith said.
When asked what he expected out of the job, Smith said, “Getting to know other people better. I am really looking forward to that. There are good people in Garner.”
Smith will continue to coach the GMHS varsity football team until the end of the upcoming season. The last football game that Smith will coach will be the Shrine Bowl Game played in Spartanburg, S.C., on December 15, 2012.