GARNER, N.C. -- It was a special kickoff Friday night at one football powerhouse, Garner High School. Longtime Coach Nelson Smith has announced he will be retiring after 30 years following the 2012 season.
Smith is as much a part of high school football in Garner as are the Friday night lights. He said this is the first time the first game of the season has brought such a mix of emotions.
“It's kind of a different feeling, really because I'm going to miss it. But at the same time, I feel it's probably time for someone else to step in and take over,” said Smith.
Over the years, Smith has earned everyone's respect.
“We want him to cherish every moment, along with the fans that support him, his coaches and players. We just want him to enjoy a great season,” said Garner Trojan Club President Mark Massey.
"Coach Smith is probably one of the best coaches I've ever played for and it was a privilege. I look forward to seeing what he does with the future,” said Steve Smith, who played for Coach Smith 25 years ago on the Trojans' state championship team.
Fortunately, fans won't have to look far for Smith next year as he's accepted the school's athletic director position.
“I'm going to miss it. It's going to be different standing up there,” said Smith.
During the 2011 season, the Trojans were nearly undefeated, losing only in the state championship game. The team hopes it can win that championship this year, to send Smith out on top.
Regardless, his last game coaching will be as head coach of the North Carolina All-Star Team in the Shrine Bowl in December.