Coach Bakari Smith grew up in Las Vegas and played football as a kid. After graduation, Smith chose Sacramento State University, majoring in business management and marketing. Currently, Smith works in sales and customer service. For those that have met Smith, this is no surprise. Smith is an other-centered man who strives to make people feel welcomed and valued. He connects well with others and leads out of personal concern, taking the initiative to reach out.
While an SSU Hornet, Smith was a wide receiver and special teams player. Experience at the high school and then at a Division 1 NCAA college level has given Smith a deep wealth of football knowledge he hopes to share with the kids.
“I have always had a love for the sport. When I met Coach Coop through mutual friends, I expressed my passion for coaching football one day. I didn’t expect Coop to consider me because we met just as friends, not as coaches. But he hit me back and gave me the opportunity,” shared Smith.
“One of the things I like about this sport is that everyone comes together — coaches, all races and ethnicities coming together and playing as a team. I love that aspect,” emphasized Smith. “Turning boys into men is definitely something that naturally comes to me. Helping them not to make the mistakes that I made.”
“We have a great group of linebackers this year. Three senior linebackers and one junior all played a tremendous season; it was key to our success and has continued to carry us this year. They are carrying the weight and doing it well. I am really proud of those guys. We have some true athletes and run-stoppers. They need to continue to step up and win each battle,” Smith reflected.
Of the linebacker group, Smith thinks Yannis Togi has developed the most in his position. “Togi has the leader mentality; you can see it in him. He is not hesitant, going full speed and with force. He is first to the ball and a real hustler,” said Smith.
“At receiver Marquawn McCraney continues to demonstrate his growth to not only the coaches but everyone. He is getting recruited by many colleges as a defensive back. He has proved that he can also be a receiver, making plays on the offensive side of the ball.
“The receiver corp is well balanced. We have lots of young talent. We have junior and sophomores carrying the weight at the receiver corp. Sophomore Adam Estrada has been really putting himself out there,” according to Smith.
Smith believes the kids can go deep into the season. He does not want to put pressure on the kids. He wants them to own it themselves. “They have the talent to go far if they want it and to be in that last game of the year. They truly do, but it is up to them,” he said.
Regarding the three blowouts against 2A schools with a total of 167 points for Highline while shutting out their opponents, Smith chalks that up to the great defensive schemes Coach House puts together for each game. “He is a great defensive coordinator. He makes sure our defense is set right every game. Also, we have a great offensive coordinator in Coach Berg; he always makes sure our kids are prepared.” As for me, I have always emphasized scoring. Scoring, scoring, scoring. We do not like close games. And we do not like taking losses.”
Smith loves coaching under Coach Cooper, and he even wishes he had been able to play under a “Cooper” in high school. “His consistency is outstanding, not just with the program but as a man. It rubs off on me in a good way. It makes me more consistent,” Smith revealed.
In closing, Smith shared that he wants to see how far these kids will take it. “As the season grinds on, the weather gets cold, and our practices become more routine, the boys need to stay focused on that last game.”
It is clear why the Pirates are dominating in the 2A class in their conference. The depth of coaching talent matches the depth of team talent. They’re not only devoted coaches but also quality men who use their influence to shape the Pirates into men with character, discipline, and integrity both on and off the field.
We can all benefit from the Pirate’s team chant. “Let your yes be yes, your no be no. Now go home and tell someone you love them.”