WAXAHACHIE

A former Southwestern Assemblies of God University signal is ready to step into a new leading role with the Lion football team.

The university announced Friday that former SAGU quarterback Ryan Smith will return as their new head football coach.

"We are excited to welcome back Coach Ryan Smith into our SAGU community to lead our Football program," SAGU President Kermit Bridges said. "Along with his own personal achievements as a player and a coach, he is an extraordinary leader and will make an impact in the lives of our players both on and off the field."

As a student-athlete at SAGU, Smith was the starting quarterback all four years. In 2004, he was named as an NAIA Preseason All-American and earned two NAIA National Player of the Week honors.

While leading the Lions, he set nearly every passing record on the books, which he still holds to this day. In 2004, he set the single-season passing record with 2,693 yards. He also holds the career passing record with 6,269 yards. On September 3, 2004, Smith passed for 519 yards in a game vs. Principia College.

As a coach, Smith values and invests in the spiritual well-being and growth of his players. In September 2016, Smith had the unique opportunity to baptize one of his players at Newton High School. The video went viral and received both praise and criticism from around the nation. Despite this, Smith remained confident and believed he was simply doing what God had called him to do.

For Smith, SAGU holds a special place in his heart. He felt that God had been drawing him back to his alma mater for several years. "For me, personally, this is an answered prayer," Smith stated. "SAGU aligns with my goals to be a transformational coach and my desire to help develop players and coaches on a biblically based and spiritually-lead perspective! Our mission as a program is to be a direct representation of what SAGU embodies as a university."

Coach Smith heads for Waxahachie from Newton, Mississippi. For the past two seasons, Smith served as head coach at Newton High School. He led his team to a 7-4 record. Under Smith's leadership, the Tigers also hosted their first district game in 12 years.

Before arriving at Newton, Smith led the offense for Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and spent two years teaching and coaching in Texas with stops in Palmer and Irving.

As Smith steps into his new role at SAGU, he receives abundant support from the university and numerous alumni who can attest to the character and leadership of Smith. Jesse Godding, SAGU Athletic Director, stated that many alumni were wanting to "bring one of SAGU's own home" to take over the football program and Smith was the perfect candidate for the job.

"SAGU is excited to be able to have an alumnus who is passionate about football and spiritual formation in student-athletes to administrate the football program," Godding said. "We look forward to the stamp Ryan will put on the program both on and off the field."

Smith wanted to specifically thank his family during this time of transition.

"I am extremely thankful for my wife, Kristi, and our kids' (Kailee, Kaden, Kye, and Kollins) support and constant encouragement," he said. "Also, to President Bridges and the executive cabinet for their trust in me to run one of the most unique football programs in the country. Last, but not least, I am extremely thankful to Coach Godding for his influence in my life over the past 16 years and excited about our partnership in building the football program!"