While Smith has a background and demeanor similar to former coach Dick Jauron, he has put in his time to work up the ladder.
"Well, I think I've gone through the proper channels to be a head football coach," Smith said. "I was a junior high coach, high school, worked up to college, went through the college ranks, got a chance to be on Tony Dungy's first staff at Tampa Bay as a position coach and then got an opportunity to be a coordinator.
"To me, this is a normal progress of a coach in the league, and the next step is being a head football coach. I've been successful on all those different stages and am excited about the next step."
Smith, 45, is a native of Big Sandy, Texas. He won three state championships as a player in high school and was all-state at two positions -- linebacker and tight end. He went on to Tulsa, where he was a three-time All-Missouri Conference defensive back.
Smith went back to his high school to coach in 1980, served on the staff at Tulsa from 1983-86 and coached linebackers at three schools and defensive backs at two more from 1987-95.
Smith is well known for helping develop Tampa Bay's defense as its linebackers coach from 1996-2000 -- when Bears GM Jerry Angelo was in Tampa -- before serving on the Rams staff the past three seasons.
Smith's is the first black head coach in Bears history. He joins a growing list of black coaches in the NFL that includes Dungy (Colts), Herman Edwards (Jets), Marvin Lewis (Bengals) and Dennis Green (Cardinals).
"I have confidence in myself to be a head coach in the National Football League," Smith said. "I'm getting the chance to show people that right now. A lot of people, you can ask a lot of guys, and they would say the same thing."
Smith already has offensive and defensive coordinators in mind and will move quickly as several other teams are looking to fill assistant positions.
"If you talk about offensive philosophy, you look at what I've been around," Smith said, referring to the Rams' high-octane offense. "Of course, my defensive philosophy is what we did in Tampa and what we've done in St. Louis.
"I got a chance in St. Louis to be around Mike Martz and see how an offense can work and really be a big part of what you're doing. So we're going to do something similar to what we did with the Rams, with probably a little bit more emphasis on the run."