Derry native's football coaching career taking off in Maryland
It was months ago when Derry High School football coach Al Gaiardo was calling folks to spread the good word about Kyle Schmitt, the former Trojans lineman who went on to star at the University of Maryland and spent two seasons in NFL training camps and one year in NFL Europe.
Months ago, Schmitt, 31, learned he would be an assistant coach for the Maryland team in the annual Big 33 Football Classic high school all-star game in Hershey.
About the same time, on Feb. 6 — following a four-year run as coach at Columbia (Md.) Atholton High School, where his teams produced an impressive 38-9 record and trips each year to the state playoffs — Schmitt accepted a job as coach at Severn (Md.) Archbishop Spalding, a prestigious private school in the powerful Maryland Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
“I want to tell you,” Gaiardo was saying during a phone conversation shortly thereafter, “Kyle is a great young man doing great things.”
At the Big 33 on June 15, Schmitt, who played in the Big 33 game as a high school senior, was reminded of his playing days in the WPIAL, watching former Clairton star Tyler Boyd power Pennsylvania to a 58-27 victory over Maryland with four touchdowns, including one on a 90-yard return of the opening kickoff. Boyd also passed for another TD.
“He was the man. Nobody was close to having that type of talent on the field,” Schmitt said of Boyd, who is headed to Pitt. “I know he played in Class A, but he could've dominated at any level. He was impressive.”
Schmitt, a former tight ends coach at St. Vincent who also spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Maryland, is content for now at the high school level. In fact, he's eager to make the move to a private school. At Archbishop Spalding, where recruiting is permissible in the MIAA, Schmitt is hoping to land players with talent similar to Boyd's.
“Coaching at Atholton was awesome, and the kids there are great,” said Schmitt, who was in training camps with the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals after graduating from Maryland, then played with the Cologne Centurions, Amsterdam Admirals and Berlin Thunder in the defunct NFL Europe.
“But the private schools, to me,” Schmitt said, “is a higher level. You can do a little more with the type of player you get. An MIAA championship game here is huge. It's the premiere conference in the state.”
Schmitt laughs appreciatively these days about his first look at coaching at St. Vincent, not far from his Derry roots.
“They were just getting their football program started, and they weren't even permitted to play games yet,” Schmitt said. “But the groundwork was being laid, and I owe my thanks to coach (Bob) Colbert and that staff for the opportunity they gave me to be a part of that. I had my guys I worked with. There were just three tight ends to start out with. Just me and these three guys working together. We were a tight-knit group.”
Then, later, after two years on the Maryland staff, Schmitt determined he needed to make a decision about his future.
“I was ready to do my own thing,” he said.
He carried on a successful stint at Atholton and is excited for the next challenge — at Archbishop Spalding, where he was among a group of coaching candidates that also included interim coach Brian Propst, a longtime assistant to former coach Mike Whittles, who died of pancreatic cancer in June 2012.
“We feel that (Kyle) will be a great influence on our young men, and help continue to advance our program into one of the preeminent programs in the state of Maryland,” Archbishop Spalding athletics director Jeff Parsons said.
Schmitt, a social studies teacher who was a starter at center or offensive guard in 27 games during his playing career at Maryland, wants to carry on his identity in the area on and off the gridiron.
“The good thing about teaching and coaching is getting to know the whole student body,” he said. “If you do it right, you want to be something more than a football coach. Building relationships throughout the student body has been great for me.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.