Lovie Fest: Chicago Bears Coach Comes Home To Big Sandy

They say no matter where you go in life you can always come home.

For Big Sandy's Lovie Smith, a trip home now has a little more meaning. The Chicago Bears head coach and the NFL's Coach of the Year was back in his old stomping grounds Friday for some special honors.

On Sundays he roams the sidelines of pro-stadiums calling the shots and naming big plays. Now, the street Lovie roamed as a child is named for one of Big Sandy's biggest playmakers.

The street where his childhood home once stood was named Lovie Smith Drive.

"Wherever I go, I've talked about Big Sandy and what it means to me," Coach Smith said. "A lot of my coaching philosophy is based on what I learned here, just about hard work, just doing what's right all the time."

Big Sandy thinks Lovie has done so much right, remembering the state championships from 1973 to 1975 he was a part of.

"This is a special place," he said. "We were able to play some great ball down here. Three state championships, 820 points in one season."

At the Big Sandy Chamber of Commerce meeting where Lovie was the featured speaker, his old teammates were nothing but smiles remembering the old times. Like one particular game in 1974.

"We were getting beat at half time," said former teammate Gary Chalk, "and the senior captains told the coaches to let Lovie call the defense and me call the offense and we went out and won the game."

One game that may have laid the ground work 21 years later, when Coach Smith led his bears to an 11-5 regular season record to claim the NFC North.

"Big Sandy lives vicariously through him," Chalk said.

"We talk about it all the time, the guys on the job, everywhere, they know Lovie Smith," said former teammate Lawrence Harper.

It's his East Texas roots, that Lovie said have made him a success. "There's just no place like Big Sandy."

Maya Golden reporting