Grace Christian Academy is making a change with its football program. 

GCA athletic director Len McKnatt confirmed Tuesday that the school will not retain coach Rusty Smith after seven seasons with the Lions. 

McKnatt describes the move as a "very tough and difficult decision." 

"I love he and his family very much," McKnatt added. 

Smith, a former Tennessee Titans quarterback, joined GCA in 2015 in the school's first year of TSSAA 11-man football eligibility. In that time, Smith also helped navigate GCA through the switch from D-I to D-II competition in 2020. 

Smith's best season came in 2017 when his Lions went 6-5 and won the program's first playoff game, a 64-24 victory over Wayne County. Smith won his first game on the sideline in the fall of 2015, a 28-21 road win at McEwen. 

A sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft out of Florida Atlantic, Smith spent three seasons with the Titans as a reserve quarterback before a brief stint with the New York Giants in 2014.

He was hired at GCA as its offensive coordinator in 2013 before being bumped up to the main role two years later.

Overall, Smith was 22-49 as a coach and went 6-5 in his last season with the team, falling in the first round of the playoffs. 

Back in 2019 after a tough loss, Smith shared his ultimate hope for his players was after their playing days were over. 

"What is going to make us as a football program a successful football program is 20 years from now, these boys turn into men that are leading their family, that are leading their community, that are Godly impacts in their workplace," Smith said. "That's what's going to make us a successful football program.

"[It's] not the wins and losses, not the state championship rings, not the playoff berths. It's, 20 years from now, what are these boys doing? Are they Godly men? If so, then we did something right."