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Smith retires from Montana State team
Brad Smith always had the talent. He had the motor, he had the frame. He had the speed, the size, the desire. But the Belgrade native simply couldn’t avoid the bite of the injury bug.
Wednesday, the Montana State senior defensive end retired from the football program after missing the last two seasons because of recurring shoulder injuries. Smith was granted a medical redshirt, giving him two more years of eligibility, but instead decided to call it a career. Smith will remain on scholarship and is on track to graduate with a business degree.
“He is not healthy right now; he can’t even live a normal lifestyle,” said MSU defensive line coach Bo Beck. “He can’t even go shoot a basketball or simple things. You are thinking to yourself, ‘hey, man let’s take football out of it for a minute and talk…where are you going to be 20 years down the road from now?’ He still has work to do to get healthy just to live a normal life. That was the reality we were all sitting with. He finally came to terms with, ‘hey, I hurt every day, how am I going to play football?’”
“It’s definitely a sad situation because we would love to have him out on the field.”
Smith came to the decision that giving up football was in his best interest last week after meeting with doctors. MSU head coach Rob Ash was out of the country for most of June, so the two didn’t meet until Wednesday.
“We’ve known this was coming, or that it was likely to come, for the last couple of weeks,” Ash said. “It wasn’t a shocking revelation (Wednesday). It’s something that’s been building up over time. I was on my trip (overseas) when the doctors and Brad decided this was the best decision. But I wanted to meet with him and discus if this was absolutely settled with him before we announced it.”
Beck and Ash agreed that the loss of Smith was a blow, but that the Bobcats have become accustomed to playing without him.
Smith hasn’t played a down since being injured in MSU’s opener at Michigan State in 2009.
“Sadly, he hasn’t played for two years now so it’s not like this is a surprise we weren’t ready for,” Beck said. “To us, it was to a point with him where he was the X-factor. We all had our fingers crossed as to where he would fit in if he ever could get healthy again. But we constantly prepared other guys to play without him being there.”
Smith declined to comment on his retirement to the media Wednesday.
When healthy, Smith was a phenom. The 2006 Central A Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state pick at Belgrade High School redshirted in 2007, then burst onto the scene. In 2008, the 6-foot-5, 246-pounder started seven games, registering 41 tackles in 12 outings. He had 9.5 tackles for loss and had 3.5 sacks, both fourth on the team.
During that 2008 campaign, Smith started opposite Bozeman native and current New England Patriot Dane Fletcher. The prospects of having Fletcher – at the time a junior – and Smith lining up next to one another consistently had Beck enthused.
“In a greedy way as a coach, you want to see what he could do, what he could become,” Beck said. “When he was healthy and confident…the one year when we went in to the season and on one side was (Smith) and the other side was Dane Fletcher, I felt pretty darn good. It’s disappointing to think of what those two guys could have done together.”
“(Smith) had all the potential in the world and everybody knew it. I always thought in the back of my mind, ‘he’ll be back, he’ll be back.’ But it didn’t work out like that. I’m disappointed for the kid more than for myself or the program because he had huge potential.”
Ash said as a young player, Smith tried to emulate Fletcher, something the MSU coaches encouraged willingly. Ash said the coaching staff had hoped Smith could become the type of leader Fletcher was during his time at MSU, using his local ties and true desire to be a Bobcat standout to breed success in himself and teammates.
While Smith was never able to accomplish what Fletcher did on the field, it wasn’t for a lack of talent or upside. Beck and Ash both said the hardest part with dealing with the injury is thinking of what Smith could have become.
“It’s a huge loss; he is a fabulous player, a guy who we thought not only had the ability to be a great player in the Big Sky Conference, but a guy who had the potential to play after college ball, in the NFL,” Ash said. “He is that good.”
“He had the frame, the size, the motor that someone would have looked at him down the road,” Beck said. “He was hardcore on the field between the whistles. What he had that Dane didn’t have is just size. At 6-5, he was a true defensive end. That’s not taking anything away from what Dane has done – he is playing in the exact spot he should be playing – but Brad wanted to learn, he wanted to thrive. A lot of kids do something stupid to take football away from them. That’s the sad part. Brad did everything right and football was still taken away from him.”
By Colter Nuanez, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle