Legendary local coach Dafford Smith dies at 88

Legendary coach Dafford Smith waves to the crowd of Aggie faithful just prior to kickoff on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, Fairview's first game back at Dafford Smith Stadium since 2013. (Josh McBrayer/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – One of the community’s most respected sports figures, Cullman County Hall of Fame Coach Dafford Smith, died Sunday at the age of 88. Smith spent decades across his coaching career impacting countless lives throughout the community and his legacy still holds firm to this day, most notably in the form of Dafford Smith Stadium, the home field of the Fairview Aggies. After serving as West Point’s varsity football coach from 1973-76, Smith joined Cullman High School’s coaching staff as an assistant on the undefeated 1985 Bearcats team. Just one year later, Smith accepted the position as Fairview’s head football coach. Over the next 12 seasons, Smith led the Aggies to a pair of regional championships and the first 10-win season in program history in 1994. Smith retired from coaching in 2006 after spending three seasons as St. Bernard’s head football coach.

Dafford Smith Stadium was closed in 2014 due to the need for structural repairs but when the stadium renovations were finally completed in 2016 and Fairview prepared to play its first true home game in three seasons, Coach Smith was honored before the game to put the finishing touches on a special night of Aggies football.

“In my 25 years in education, I’ve never experienced excitement like I did last week,” Fairview Principal Chris Gambrill told The Tribune in 2016. “From the faculty and staff to the students, it was the topic of every conversation. So many of our students have not had the opportunity to cheer for their team at Dafford Smith Stadium, so it was special in so many ways. Unless you have gone through it, you can’t imagine how important one game was. For three years I have imagined what that night would be, but I never imagined it would be like it ended up being. The community, leaders and students got to come home.”

“It really got to me when Coach (Dafford) Smith was honored in front of the whole stadium,” Aggies Head Coach George Redding told The Tribune in 2016. “It was a privilege to a part of that and to witness that. Also, when we were standing on the sideline with our band and cheerleaders in victory formation…WOW! That was truly an amazing moment.”

Several members of the community reached out to share their thoughts and some of their favorite memories of Coach Smith. If you would like to share any of your favorite stories or experiences with Coach, please email them to nick@cullmantribune.com.

Fairview Head Football Coach George Redding

“We truly lost the greatest. I’m so grateful for all that Coach did in my life. I wasn’t even headed into coaching until he called one day about coming to help him. I’m so thankful for all the opportunities he gave me. I’m so grateful for all the lessons and words of encouragement. No matter what I came to him about, he would speak with such a calm and reassuring voice making sure that he knew you could do it and everything would work out. I loved Coach Smith with all my heart and what an honor it was to play for him and coach alongside him.“

Dr. Lance Boyd

“Coach Smith was a role model for me. During our teaching days at Fairview High School, we taught next door to each other, and I marveled at how he made every child feel loved. He taught me to get the school annual and memorize each child’s name. He said it would make the children feel special. That is what Coach did each day of his life here on earth: make you feel special. I was also blessed to have been his assistant football coach at Fairview and he taught the players to not only excel in athletics but to also be the best they could be in all their endeavors in life. He was an encourager and had a heart as big as his smile. I loved and respected Coach Smith so much and will miss him on this earth but know that we will be together for eternity with our Father in heaven.”

Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame Chairman Jackie Satterfield

“The thing about Dafford was he was an exceptional football coach, and he coached a lot of good football teams with a lot of good football players but more than that, Dafford had a big impact on peoples’ lives. Not just the people who played football for him, but the entire student body. Everybody thought the world of Dafford. You don’t meet people like that every day, but every once in a while, you meet a person that nobody dislikes. Dafford was that kind of person. He always had a smile on his face, and he always had a positive attitude about getting things done. In school you’re not supposed to cheat off of other peoples’ paper but in life if you could find somebody like Dafford Smith to imitate, it’s ok to cheat off of them.”

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