I first came into contact with Mike Smith in the early 1990s. At that time, Hampton High School had won seven Virginia state football championships. But the best was yet to come for the Crabbers and their head coach.
With Smith leading the way, Hampton reeled off four straight state championships from 1995 to '98 and the Crabbers were crowned back-to-back national champions in 1996 and '97 by the National
Prep Poll, which originated in 1987 and was renamed the FAB 50 in 1999.
The 1995-97 title teams were led by quarterback and two-sport All-American Ronald Curry, who was a national player of the year in his senior season after Hampton won its state-record 40th straight game. Curry is now a wide receiver in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders.
A year earlier, the Crabbers outscored their opponents 768-83, including a 51-0 rout of Patrick Henry High School in the title game.
Last weekend, Smith took the spotlight as he joined the elite 400-victory club. A 35-0 shutout of Indian River (Chesapeake, Va.) made the 38-year Hampton coach only the seventh high school head coach, and fifth active coach, to win 400 games.
In his career at Hampton, Smith sports a 400-59-2 report card, including a 67-20 mark in postseason play.
So how did the "old-school" coach respond after the milestone win?
"I wish it was 200," Smith told the media, "and I was young enough to win 200 more. All 400 means is you're an old geezer."
Vintage 67-year-old Mike Smith. He takes his job seriously but never himself.
I remember our telephone conversations during the four-year state run from 1995 to '98 and he was a journalist's dream -- always good for a quote and never shy talking about his team. As the saying goes, "It's not bragging if you can back it up." And most of the time, the Smith-coached Crabbers did just that.
Since 1998, however, Hampton has had a bit of a title drought, winning only the 2005 championship behind current Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
The Crabbers are 10-1 this season, but the one loss was a 42-6 drubbing by city rival and FAB 50-ranked Phoebus, the "new kid on the block" in the past decade in the Tidewater area.
Smith joins four other active coaches in the 400-win club -- John McKissick of Summerville (S.C.); J.T. Curtis of John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.); Larry Campbell of Lincoln County (Lincolnton, Ga.); and George Curry of Wyoming Valley West (Plymouth, Pa.)
The 82-year-old McKissick is high school football's version of Penn State's Joe Paterno.
McKissick is the winningest coach at any level -- high school, college or professional. Now in his 57th season at Summerville, McKissick sports a 565-132-13 record.
Curtis has a sparkling 463-51-6 record in 40 years at the Louisiana private school founded by his father; Campbell is 423-72-3 in 37 seasons at the small, rural Georgia powerhouse; while Curry, who earned fame earlier at Berwick (Pa.), is 413-89-5 in his career.
The other two 400-win coaches ahead of Smith on the all-time charts are both retired. G.A. Moore was 412-85-9 in 42 years in Texas schools. Pete Adkins coached 44 seasons in Missouri, where he built Jefferson City into a powerhouse and was 405-60-4.
But retirement doesn't appear to be in the vocabulary for Smith.
Like "Old Man River," he just keeps on rolling.
National coach of the week
When Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.), lost its season opener to St. Xavier (Cincinnati) 17-10, it must have given the rest of the Ironmen's opponents some hope that maybe head coach Greg Toal's team was down a little.
If so, it proved short-lived. In its second nationally televised game of the season, FAB 50 No. 20 Don Bosco Prep raced past St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.) 35-6 last week behind senior running back Dillon Romain's four touchdowns.
Earlier in the season, the Ironmen stunned California power De La Salle of Concord, handing the Spartans a rare home loss 23-21. De La Salle hasn't lost since and has risen to No. 26 in the FAB 50 and No. 3 in the state.
Success is nothing new to Toal, who won his 102nd game at Don Bosco Prep versus just 10 losses. Overall, following stints at Hackensack and River Dell (Oradell), Toal has a 228-36-2 record -- all in New Jersey.
The Ironmen open defense of their state Non-Public Group IV title Friday against Paul VI (Haddonfield, N.J.).
No repeat rule
In an effort to spread the good cheer (and honors) as much as possible, it is the stated policy of the ESPN RISE Player of the Week program that no one be chosen twice in the same school year.
That doesn't mean we can't report on a previous winner when he does something special.
Last Friday night in Bakersfield, Calif., quarterback Derek Carr of Bakersfield Christian turned in a record-breaking outing in his team's 42-35 win over Arvin.
Carr, who was the ESPN RISE Player of the Week two weeks ago, completed 37 of 48 passes for 544 yards and four touchdowns. He set a new CIF Central Section record and put his name into the state record book as well for single-game completions.
Running back Zach Barkett of Schuylkill Haven (Pa.), the season's Week 1 winner, shined last week as usual with 17 carries for 344 yards and six touchdowns in a 58-13 win over Nativity BVM of Pottsville. Barkett now has more than 3,200 yards rushing for the season.
Another former winner, Trent Richardson from Escambia (Pensacola, Fla.), did something similar in a 21-14 win over Pensacola Catholic. The Under Armour All-American rushed 39 times for 351 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Waiting for even more to come
Then there are those players we consider just about every week for top national weekly honors but hold off on selecting due to a sense that even greater accomplishments and even more prestigious recognition may be forthcoming.
Topping that list is quarterback Garrett Gilbert from Lake Travis High (Austin, Texas). The 6-foot-4 senior remained hot last week by completing 21 of 24 passes for 358 yards and six touchdowns in an easy win against Marble Falls. Gilbert, who led Lake Travis to a Class 4A state title last year, enters the Texas playoffs with 38 TD passes and just two interceptions for the season.
Doug Huff is a senior editor of ESPN RISE and is a member of the National Federation Hall of Fame. He has been compiling national and regional rankings in multiple sports since 1987 and is credited as the founder of the national record book. Mark Tennis and Steve Brand also contributed to this column.