Utica Eisenhower's new varsity football coach, Chris Smith, took a quick break from first-day practice this morning to talk about the upcoming season and taking over from an icon.
It didn't take but a moment for Smith, a former Michigan State defensive lineman who played for George Perles, to mention the name of Bob Lantzy, who retired as Eisenhower's head coach at the end of last season, after 41 years. He was the only head coach in school history.
Smith, a graduate of Clinton Township Clintondale, coached and learned under Lantzy for 14 years following his career at MSU, where he played in 1993-96.
"Bob's probably playing some golf right now, but I expect I'll see him around here soon," said Smith, whose Eagles open the season against Port Huron on Aug. 25. "He was a great mentor, an inspiration to many. I'm very lucky to have stepped into his shoes, as big as they are."
Around 200 players -- junior varsity and varsity -- joined in practice at Eisenhower today, under brilliant sunshine, as workouts around the metro area kicked off for the coming high school football season.
Smith says his team, which went 8-1 in the regular season last year, should be competitive again, with big, strong linemen on both sides of the ball, a solid running game and decent receivers. Last year, the Eagles won their league but were beaten by Detroit Cass Tech, 6-3, in a Division 1 state semifinal.
"We won't know for sure what we have until we put the pads on Thursday," Smith said. "But, we have a good returning class, some big guys at 280 pounds or more and a quarterback who is a leader. I'm excited."
Contact Mike Brudenell: 313-222-2115 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mikebrudenell.