SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Former University of South Carolina quarterback and Tuscaloosa native Chris Smelley has been named the 22nd football coach in Sylacauga’s 112-year football history, Sylacauga City Schools announced today. An experienced head coach at the high school level with a winning pedigree, Smelley is known for orchestrating elite and explosive offenses and developing quarterbacks.
The head coach at American Christian Academy (Tuscaloosa) from 2014-2020, Smelley returned his alma-mater to relevance by taking the Patriots to three consecutive state quarterfinal appearances (2017-19), and a state semifinal appearance in 2020. In his final four seasons at American Christian Academy, Smelley amassed a 45-8 record, captured three consecutive region crowns (2018-20), and averaged over 35 points per game.
“After a very diligent interview process, we were able to land a great fit for Sylacauga High School football,” said Athletic Director Chad Wilkinson. “We are excited to bring Chris Smelley and his family to Sylacauga. He is a players’ coach that I think our student-athletes will go the extra mile for.”
“It’s an honor to be given this opportunity at Sylacauga. I’m excited. My wife and kids are excited. We can’t wait to join the community,” Smelley said. “To be able to coach in a city and a school where the people love being here, there is a lot of tradition and pride here, we are blessed to become a part of the Aggie family, and we can’t wait to get things started in Sylacauga.”
With over a decade of overall coaching experience, Smelley began his career as an assistant at Hillcrest High School (Tuscaloosa). After one year at Hillcrest, Smelley returned to his alma-mater as the offensive coordinator in 2012 before being promoted to head coach in 2014. Smelley took over a 5-6 American Christian Academy football program following the 2013 season. By 2015, the second-year coach changed the culture, leading the Patriots to a 10-2 record and a second-round playoff matchup. Outside of his first season as the head coach in Tuscaloosa, Smelley’s offenses only averaged less than 28 points per game in a season once.
“I am thrilled to welcome Chris to Sylacauga as part of our Aggie family. This decision was not taken lightly by our administration or the interview committee,” said Principal Gary Rivers. “Coach Smelley’s fast-paced brand of football is one that we believe will get the most athletes on the field and give us the best chance to win at Sylacauga. Chris knows, as do we, this will not be an overnight culture change, but we have full faith that he can take Sylacauga football where it needs to go.”
“Coach Chris Smelley was unanimously chosen by the interview committee as the number one candidate for the head football coach position at Sylacauga High School,” said Superintendent Dr. Michele Eller. “His proven track record as well as his character on and off the field are exactly what our athletes need to develop a program of excellence. I look forward to seeing our athletes soar under his leadership.”
Most recently, Smelley has served as the quarterbacks coach at 7A Hoover High School since 2021. He is credited with equipping the Bucs’ freshman quarterback with the needed tools to compete in the AHSAA’s highest classification last season.
Before beginning his coaching and educational career, Smelley played quarterback for legendary Southeastern Conference coach Steve Spurrier at the University of South Carolina from 2006-2008. Coming out of high school, Smelley was recognized as a top-300 high school recruit in America by national recruiting services. Following his time in the Palmetto State, Smelley returned to Tuscaloosa to finish his college career at the University of Alabama where he joined the Tide’s baseball team from 2009 to 2010.
Among a long list of accomplishments, Smelley was named Tuscaloosa News Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2018. He was a Southeastern Conference Academic All-American from 2006 to 2008 and was named Gatorade High School Player of the Year for the state of Alabama.
Smelley and his wife, Josie, have four children: Coleman, Canon, Franklin, and McKenzie. The family plans to move to Sylacauga to be a part of the community.
Sylacauga High School will host a pep rally Wednesday afternoon to welcome Coach Chris Smelley to the Aggie Family.