After an illustrious playing career at East Carolina, Wardell "Junior" Smith returned to the Pirate program Dec. 13, 2004 and now is in his fifth season as a member of coaching staff working exclusively with the running backs.
Smith, who currently ranks as the Pirates' all-time leading rusher with 3,745 yards and was a three-time All-America performer during his four-year playing career from 1991 to 1994, returned to East Carolina after one-year stint as running backs coach at Louisiana-Monroe in 2004.
Since his arrival back in Greenville, Smith has re-energized the ECU rushing attack which includes three 1,500-yard seasons and a stellar 2,400-yard campaign in 2007 after inheriting a unit which managed less than 117 yards per game in the previous two years combined, including a 92.8 average in 2004. In fact, the Pirates' 182.9 average in '07 marked the program's second-highest clip since 1988.
In addition, he has directed a total of five backs that recorded a combined 15 100-yard rushing efforts in the past four years in Chris Johnson (2004-07), Brandon Fractious (2005-06), Norman Whitley (2008), Brandon Simmons (2008) and Jonathan Williams (2008).
However, it was Johnson who reaped most the benefit from Smith's work and experience in 2007. The Orlando, Fla., native capped a noteworthy senior campaign by becoming the first Pirate to rush for over 1,000 yards since 2003 with his 1,423-yard total, which included single-game efforts of 301 at Memphis and a Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl-record 223 against Boise State. In addition to numerous kickoff return, scoring and all-purpose records, Johnson concluded his career by setting new school standards exclusively for running backs such as single-season rushing touchdowns, reception yards and reception TDs before becoming a first-round draft choice of the Tennessee Titans.
After projected starter Dominique Lindsay suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to the start of the 2008 campaign, Smith used a three-pronged rushing attack with Whitley, Simmons and Williams that produced 1,552 of the unit's 1,796 ground yards and accounted for 16 of ECU's 17 touchdowns. Whitley, who finished his sophomore season as ECU's top rusher with 698 yards, helped the Pirates down Tulsa in the Conference USA Championship game with 104 yards - 69 coming on a pivotal scoring run late in the third quarter that broke a 17-17 deadlock.
In addition to guiding the Indians' rushing attack, Smith also served as ULM's punt team coordinator, video and professional scout liaison for head coach Charlie Weatherbie.
Prior to joining the Louisiana-Monroe staff, Smith spent four seasons as running backs coach at Army beginning in 2000. He also handled various special teams assignments and handled the Black Knights' recruiting efforts in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. In 1998 and 1999, Smith coached running backs at Illinois State where he helped the Redbirds to a combined two-year record of 19-7 and a pair of NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances.
Prior to accepting his first full-time job at ISU, Smith served as a graduate assistant in ECU's Athletic Student Development Office in 1997, where he was responsible for designing academic schedules, monitoring student academic progress and coordinating the Pirates' faculty guest coaching program.
Smith enjoyed an illustrious playing career at East Carolina, posting three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing and nine touchdown seasons in 1992 (1,037), 1993 (1,352) and 1994 (1,204). He recorded 16 triple-digit rushing efforts and was a top 10 candidate for the 1994 Doak Walker Award. In addition to this three honorable mention selections as a Football News All-America performer, Smith was a three-time All-South Independent pick.
In the classroom, Smith was honored as the recipient of the 1994 St. Jude Liberty Bowl Scholar-Athlete Award and the 1995 Texas-Gulf Phosphate Outstanding Male Scholar-Athlete Award.
Upon the completion of his collegiate career, Smith played professionally with the Shreveport Pirates and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League in 1995 and 1996.
Smith, 35, earned his bachelor's degree in exercise and sports science from East Carolina in May, 1997.