BOISE - Legendary former Boise State head football coach passed away July 25. He was 101 years old.
Smith is the school's all-time wins leader and is considered the "father of Bronco football." But it was perhaps his contributions in the decades since he retired from football that have ingrained him in the hearts of Broncos players, coaches and fans.
"Lyle was one of the most unselfish people that I've been around, and has this fantastic ability to make everyone around him feel good." coach Bryan Harsin said.
Lyle Smith obviously loved the game and the players. This was him from just last spring, motoring around at practice at 101 years old. pic.twitter.com/vD8i5i52zD— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) July 26, 2017
He served as the head coach at Boise Junior College from 1947-1950, then again from 1952-1967. He missed three games during the 1950 season and the entire 1951 campaign to serve in the military.
Smith built the football program into a powerhouse and inspired the Boise State program to grow into what it is today. His career record at BJC was 156-26-6, with five undefeated seasons, a 37-game winning streak, 51 shutouts, and the school’s original national championship—in the JC ranks in 1958.
In 1967, he stepped away from the field and took over the athletic director duties for the Broncos, guiding the athletic program as the junior college became a university in 1974. Under his watch, Boise State won the Division I-AA National Championship in 1980.
Smith retired the following year, but he remained a fixture around the Boise State program - he was often spotted enjoying games both home and away - until his death.
Last fall, BSU unveiled a statue of Smith near the Allen Noble Hall of Fame.
"It's a privilege to be a Bronco," he said on the day the statue was dedicated. "I find it's a real privilege."
Speaking during the Mountain West Conference Media Days in Las Vegas on Wednesday, coach Bryan Harsin said Smith continued to provide guidance and valuable advice to players long after he had retired.
"The mentality that he had every single day when he was around us, whether he came into the weight room to work out... or he's in his wheelchair the last time he came and spoke to the team," Harsin said. "And everybody just gathered around and every single one of those guys shook his hand and walked out of there with another piece of advice that they're gonna carry for the rest of their lives."
"He is the greatest representation of Boise State football that we have," said quarterback Brett Rypien. "You'd be hard-pressed to find anybody that cared more about the program."
After news of Smith's death broke on Wednesday, several former players took to social media to offer their condolences and memories of the legendary coach.
RIP coach Lyle Smith you gave this earth everything you could for 101 years. You'll always be remembered 😪— Jeremy McNichols (@JeremyMcNichols) July 26, 2017
Rest In Peace Coach Smith, thank you.— Beau Martin (@IronBronc0) July 26, 2017
Just spoke with David Moa. He said that Lyle Smith would come into the football facility every Wednesday and workout.— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) July 26, 2017
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