Brad Smith has discovered a whole new world at the University of Missouri. But don't think the 2001 Chaney High graduate has forgotten his roots.
Smith has so much potential as a football player that Missouri coaches have rated him as the No. 1 quarterback following spring practice. But don't think Smith has forgotten his roots.
To forget his roots would be unlike Brad Smith.
"I still call home every day," said Smith, a red-shirt freshman. "If you lose touch with people you care about, things don't matter as much."
Those who know Smith wouldn't be surprised of his outlook. Chaney coach Ron Berdis once told us, "He's too good to be true." And this, "He's a once-in-a-lifetimer."
And Berdis wasn't talking about Smith the football player. Rather, it was Smith the person.
Working his way up
To learn of Smith's rise within Missouri's program isn't a surprise. Impressive, but not a surprise.
In his senior season at Chaney, Smith directed the Cowboys to a 10-0 record and a playoff berth, and was later named the Northeast Ohio Inland District's Player of the Year. He also passed for 40 career touchdowns.
When Missouri red-shirted him last season, Smith began the learning process and dove into a new realm of football possibilities.
"There was a lot of room for error in high school. Now, every play has to be perfect," Smith said. "It's a different level of focus."
Smith quarterbacked the scout team against Missouri's first-team defense. He broke down film with coaches, studied tendencies of defenses and built himself up to 6-foot-21/2, 200 pounds.
Smith traveled with the team, sat in on meetings and saw first-hand what it took to be a Division I quarterback.
"At first, I was like, 'Wow, there's so much to be responsible for,' " he said. "I'd sit down in my room with my playbook and be like, 'Wow. What in the world is going on?' "
On April 20 in the spring game, he donned his black and gold uniform with the giant "M" on the helmet and, in front of 15,000 fans at Memorial Stadium, showed how much he has learned.
Smith completed 12-of-21 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. It was his first game action in front of fans since his senior year when Chaney lost to Niles in a playoff opener at Stambaugh Stadium.
"I just tried to execute the offense as best I could," said Smith, on his climb to No. 1 at Missouri. "I hadn't really thought about [a timetable]. All I knew is I wanted to get there. I kept working, and it happened this spring."
But the work is only beginning. Smith will battle to solidify the starting job in the fall, and he's got some competition.
Gaining the upper hand
Smith will have to unseat last season's incumbent quarterback, Kirk Farmer, a senior from Missouri who started nine of 10 games last season and totaled 1,946 yards of offense.
The other quarterback in the mix is red-shirt freshman Santino Riccio, a native of Ellwood City, Pa.
"We're a team. That's first and foremost," Smith said. "I respect all of them and try not to look at them as individual players. I try to focus on our team and what I can do when I'm out there."
So, what would it mean to Smith to be Missouri's starting quarterback in the fall?
"It would mean everything," Smith said. "Being able to, not only play the best teams in the country, but to beat the best teams in the country.
"Having that opportunity to give all I can and get our team to a high level of competition."
Count on Smith making the calls at Missouri this fall -- whether it be on the field or from a telephone, staying in touch.
XBrian Richesson is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.