Southside Makers & Shakers: Darnell Smith

San Antonio’s Southside is home to a very special community of creators, hard workers, and people that inspire—many of whom are leaders across the Alamo city. Our Southside Makers and Shakers blog series celebrates Southsiders making their mark. Each addition to the series offers new insight into the community and the gente that make the Southside so unique.

In this blog, we interview the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Texas A&M-San Antonio, Darnell Smith. Read on to learn more about Darnell, including his recent recognition as Athletic Director of the Year.

Darnell Smith Speaking at a Texas A&M San Antonio Event

Tell us about yourself and the work that you do.

I’m the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics here at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Over the past 4 1/2 years, we’ve established six sports programs: men’s & women’s soccer, softball, men’s golf, and men’s and women’s basketball. We offer scholarships to student-athletes locally, nationally, and internationally, representing our institution on a national stage in competitions and championships.

My dad was in the Air Force and I was raised at Lackland Air Force Base since I was 10. San Antonio has been my home, and sports have always been a part of my life. Coming back home to San Antonio and building something meaningful was important to me. I wanted to establish a legacy and create a pillar for this community and the opportunity to do this in my hometown was something I couldn’t pass up.

Headshot of Darnell Smith

What inspired you to become a leader on San Antonio’s Southside, and what keeps you motivated to continue your work?

As a student athlete at Oklahoma State, the support I received from athletic administrators inspired me. They believed in me and invested in me, and I wanted to pay it forward by pursuing a career as an athletic director. My journey began in athletic compliance, ensuring rules were followed, but it was the relationships and seeing how sports can transform lives that kept me going. I want to help others achieve their goals and dreams.

My faith, family, authentic leadership, and commitment to leaving a legacy for San Antonio define my drive.

Looking to the future, what projects are you most excited about, and how do you believe they will benefit our city and its residents?

Our goal at A&M-San Antonio is to represent South Bexar County and South San Antonio on a national stage as best as we can. We plan to continue expanding our sports offerings based on local and campus interests, as well as potential investments. We want to build facilities that can host future championships and serve as landmarks, showcasing the pride of South San Antonio. Our focus is on growth and creating a positive impact on the area.

Darnell Smith at a SA Sports event

What do you believe makes Southside San Antonio unique compared to other parts of the city?

Growing up here, I’ve noticed that the Southside feels like one big family. No one is a stranger, and people genuinely support each other, creating a strong sense of community that you cannot find anywhere else. When I connect with community leaders, there’s a feeling of synergy and a drive for common goals, reflecting a shared commitment to the Southside’s growth.

Right next to A&M-San Antonio, VIDA is a part of the exciting transformation underway in Southside. One that considers long-time residents and what they need to thrive in this area. When I joined A&M-San Antonio a couple of years ago, VIDA was just getting started. Now I am amazed at how fast the community is flourishing with residents and projects.

Darnell Smith holds up the Jaguar paw

What are some places you frequently visit or enjoy on the Southside?

Outside of work, I enjoy outdoor activities and parks, making the most of what San Antonio has to offer. My family and I love visiting Mission Marquee Plaza to watch outdoor movies. We also enjoy visiting parks and exploring the Mission Trails.

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