Chuck Smith made an impact at WVU
Charles “Chuck” Smith has the distinction of being one of the first Ringgold High School gridders to be an impact player on the major college level.
A 1973 graduate, Smith went to West Virginia University, where he ended up as one of the best defensive tackles in the Mountaineers' history.
In 1975, Smith put his name in the school's record book with 100 assisted tackles, which still tops the list 38 years later.
Smith led the '75 Mountaineers with 170 total tackles, including 25 in a 39-0 loss to No. 9 Penn State which also landed him on coach Bobby Bowden's weekly televsion show.
“The reason I had so many tackles against Penn State was because they ran what seemed like some 200 plays,” he smiled. “I'll never forget we were 4-0 going into that game but we took only 60 players to University Park and they really beat us.”
The '75 Mountaineers posted a 9-3 record, including a 13-10 victory over North Carolina State in the Peach Bowl, and ended up 20th in the final rankings.
WVU's other two losses that season were by a combined total of three points to Tulane (16-14) and to Syracuse (20-19) in the regular season finale.
The Mountaineers opened the campaign with wins over Temple, California, Boston College and SMU and were ranked as high as eighth. The other victories came over Virginia Tech, Kent State, Pitt and Richmond.
In 1976, Smith was selected Defensive Player of the Game in a 24-16 defeat at Pitt.
Ironically, the same weekend Smith was honored for his performance against the Panthers so were two of his former Ringgold teammates – Joe Montana at Notre Dame and Keith Bassi at Yale. Montana and Bassi were both a year behind Smith at Ringgold.
A 6-3, 240-pound tackle in high school, Smith was the Rams' first two-time All-Mon Valley Conference selection.
Ringgold went 4-3-2 in Smith's senior year for the first winning season in Ringgold's history.
One of the ties was a 34-34 deadlock against Monessen highlighted by Montana's first Big 10 start at quarterback. The Rams were coached was Chuck Abramski, with Jeff Petrucci, Bill Vasiloff and Paul Zolak some of the assistants.
More than 100 colleges were interested in Smith.
“I couldn't believe I had so many offers because I thought I was going to work in the mill with my father,” he said. “I went on trips to 15 schools all over the country. It was like a dream come true.”
Smith narrowed the list to four with Pitt, Georgia and Notre Dame joining West Virginia.
“I really liked coach Bobby Bowden,” he said. “But if I went to Pitt I would have played on a national championship team. Tony Dorsett was among some of the players I made trips with.”
Smith, who tipped the scales between 280 and 300 pounds in college, ended up an honorable mention All-American and was named to WVU's 1970-79 all-time team.
Although he didn't make the NFL draft, Smith had a shot at the pros.
“The Cleveland Browns signed me as a free agent to a contract equivalent to a sixth rounder,” he said. “I was cut after the final exhibition game. I was in for 25 plays during the preseason, making nine tackles, one quarterback sack and blocked a field goal. I received five or six paychecks with the Browns.”
The 1977 Browns were coached by Forest Gregg with Dick Modzelewski as defensive coordinator.
The Browns' top defensive tackles were Jerry Sherk and Joe Jones, who's best known for his collar tackle on Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw.
Smith played for two semipro teams, the Clarksburg Red Raiders and Washington Generals, but wasn't 100 percent.
“I had hurt my hip and didn't have the speed like in college,” he said.
Smith received a master's degree in safety engineering and a bachelor of science degree in education.
He's married to the former Karen Vancik of Monongahela. They have six children: Rick, Michael, Jeffrey and Patrick Smith and Tom and Renee Dague. The latter two are Smith's stepchildren.
A long-time Ringgold School Board director, Smith is president of West General Transit and Ave and Belle Estates.He's also been sole proprietor of Cambros Housing for 30 years.
Brian Herman is a freelance writer.
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