St. Paul’s reached into the college ranks to find its football coach, hiring Scott Van Zile, who previously served as the quarterbacks coach at Towson under Rob Ambrose.
Van Zile brings a fresh outlook to St. Paul’s as a former college assistant after the Crusaders went 2-7 under former coach Scott Ripley. Van Zile’s decision to become a high school football coach came down to the stability for his family and an opportunity to lead a team.
“I just finished my 20th season as a [Football Championship Subdivision] assistant and it’s been a great 20 years and I’ve really enjoyed it. But at the same time, I’ve always wanted to run my own program and be a head coach,” said Van Zile, who took over Monday. "I think that this St. Paul’s opportunity was really appealing. My family is starting to get a little bit older. You know what the college game is like — there’s a lot of movement.
“I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve only been at three places in those 20 years, but the reality is that it probably wouldn’t have been the end of it. We wanted to put some roots down here and like I said, this opportunity just seems to be too good to pass up.”
St. Paul’s starting quarterback Scott Smith III is excited for the opportunity to work with his new coach.
“He messaged me on Twitter and he saw my videos and he’d like to see me put in work,” Smith said. “Other than that, I congratulated him on getting the job and hopefully we’ll get to work soon together, but with the coronavirus, it might be just a Zoom call, just texting or going over the offense or just anything in general. I’m just looking forward to it.”
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Smith had a strong 2019 campaign, recording 1,703 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He added 207 rushing yards and a touchdown, earning MIAA All-Conference honors. His abilities on the field and off of the field (maintaining a 3.8 GPA) drew interest from Columbia, Fordham, Holy Cross, Morgan State, VMI and Yale.
Van Zile coached quarterback Tom Flacco, the younger brother of former Ravens star Joe Flacco, when he was at Towson. Under Van Zile, Flacco put up 6,082 passing yards, 50 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 24 career games with the Tigers. Smith looks to build his profile as a college recruit by working with Van Zile and strengthening his passing ability.
“I’ve seen a few videos with him throwing — not with Coach Van Zile, but on Twitter of Tom and I’m a similar player to Tom,” Smith said. “I’m a pass first guy who can run. I’m a little bit bigger than him, but he’s got his chance at the NFL. Especially Coach Van Zile being with him who is a guy who could possibly be in the NFL, it’s humbling because now I get to be coached by a guy that’s coached a guy who has a chance to go to the NFL.”
The feeling is mutual for Van Zile. Smith is listed at 6-feet-4, 210 pounds, and with his frame, he has the ideal size for a quarterback in college and the pros.
“I think Scott is a very good athlete,” Van Zile said. “He’s got very great size, a good release and watching what he’s done in the past, especially this past season, it’s a lot of things that as a FCS recruiter, I was very intrigued with. He was a guy who we evaluated and were looking at.
“I’m probably most excited that he has a very high ceiling and I think that there’s a lot of untapped potential in there, and hopefully when he and I have an opportunity to work together, he and I will bring that potential to the surface. I think he’s got a lot more to go.”