Gene Smart was raised in Texas and moved to Oildale in 1955 to live with his Dad. One of the first North High kids he met was future NFL player Vern Burke. That started a long friendship throughout their time at North High.
An outstanding football player and wrestler, he became known for being one of the toughest of the tough in an era of tough guys.
He participated in baseball his first two years at North on the Frosh/Soph team, but made his mark on the football field and wrestling mats. He was a starting guard and linebacker on the varsity for three years and was a key player on North’s first SYL Championship team in 1957, as the Stars lost just one game. Smart was named first team All-SYL and first team All-Valley both as a junior and a senior. He was also named the team’s Most Inspirational Player as a senior. In addition, he capped his football career off by being named starter in the North-South All-Star game.
As a wrestler, Smart wrestled at 165 pounds and was winning his matches easily. He once pinned an opponent in the first 10 seconds of the match. North’s legendary wrestling coach, Win “Boot” Bootman, moved him up to the 190-pound weight class, though he still weighed less than 170 pounds.
A leader on the campus as well as the athletic fields, he was Vice President of the “BIG N” club as a senior. Gene is a quiet person who let his playing do the talking.
Gene credits Coaches Turk Eliades and “Boot” Bootman for much of his success. After his senior year, he joined the Army for two years, stationed in Texas. He then worked for Southern Pacific Railroad in San Antonio, Texas for 37 years before retiring. Gene and Elizabeth now live in Floresville, Texas.