Change of direction for Seneca Valley's Smith
Football is a game of matchups and subsequent mismatches.
One sure-fire way to gain an advantage these days is to have a superbly talented tight end like San Diego's Antonio Gates or New Orleans stalwart Jimmy Graham.
The common thread those stars share is that they primarily played basketball their entire lives, then transitioned to football.
Seneca Valley's Mike Smith is following in that path. After playing basketball much of his life, he played football his senior season, and now could be playing in Division I after only one season of football on his resume.
“I think is speaks a lot (about Mike) and the credit goes to him,” said Seneca Valley football coach Don Holl. “He is athletic and coachable. We were able to put him in a position where he could help us. I think he sets a good example to other guys that you don't have to specialize.”
Smith was a starting defensive end for the Raiders in addition to his tight-end role on offense.
“I was passionate about basketball from a young age,” Smith said. “I put a lot of time into football this year. I like football better, but I didn't want to get hurt for basketball season. I have no regrets about waiting to play football, it could not have worked out any better.”
Smith has received interest from Georgetown University and Wake Forest. He had Division II options for both sports, but said his academic goals were better suited at the D-I and D-III levels.
“It has always been academics first for me,” he said. “If the sports worked out, then great. I want to major in finance and marketing, and minor in economics.”
Smith spoke with the coaching staff at Georgetown to see if it was a reasonable endeavor to play football and take on his major.
“You can't go wrong with Georgetown's business school,” he said. “The coaches there seemed the most interested in me. They saw me as a player they can develop.”
At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and with the power that comes with a player of that stature, Smith also has the lateral movement and quickness from his basketball career to complement his size and strength.
“Basketball really helped me and really relates to football with the starting, stopping and catching,” Smith said.
Holl said Smith has a lot of ability and commitment, and the fact he looks to get better each day is something that will serve him well at the next level. Although he is excited for the future, Smith is still helping the Raiders basketball team through its playoff run and said he will miss the relationships he has made.
“I will miss the teams, the life lessons and my coaches,” he said. “I am so thankful to all the guys who coached me, and the fact we were able to finish well in the (WPIAL football) playoffs, making the semifinals). Coming out of our section, that is commendable.”
Smith also helped the basketball team make the WPIAL final four last season as a junior.
“I am proud of the things we were able to accomplish as a team,” he said. “I think our tightness as a group led to our success. T.J. Holl, Chad Izenas and Matt Barbe are all good friends, and that helped.”
It's those relationships he will miss, but making new friends, learning new things, and living on his own are things he is excited to experience.
“I really want to make an impact on the field next season,” Smith said.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.