Football is a game of passion and energy. Charleston Southern nose guard James Smith brings both to the field every day.
From the time practice starts each afternoon until the final whistle, and throughout four quarters of every game, Smith is not only a key member of a good defense but also serves an important emotional role.
“He’s one of those guys it’s hard not to like because he does have so much energy and passion for the game,” CSU coach Jamey Chadwell said. “Sometimes, you get to a point where maybe he is running his mouth too much, but to his credit, he always backs up the talk with his play.
“We want those types of guys. We don’t want to squash that enthusiasm. This game has to be about fun and passion and energy and James comes every single day ready to go.”
The 6-1, 280-pound junior gets his energy honest. His father, David, is a preacher and has made Smith understand that each day is an opportunity to celebrate.
“It’s in my roots,” Smith said. “My dad being a preacher, he’s a hyped-up guy. He raised me to be excited about playing because the next play is never promised to anyone. I never want to walk on a field and not be excited to be there. It doesn’t last forever so I try to make the most of every play.”
His work may go unnoticed to the casual fan that sees only highlights and stat sheets, but Smith’s performance has been a key reason the Buccaneers are 4-0 heading into Saturday’s game at Appalachian State.
Smith started all 11 games of the 2012 season and made 16 starts over his first two seasons. However, when Chadwell arrived, along with new defensive coordinator Chad Staggs, Smith was forced to adjust from a 4-3 defensive alignment to a 3-4 look.
The change brought more responsibility to Smith as the man in the middle of the defensive line. And, after spring practice, the coaching staff told Smith he needed to drop some weight and get in better shape.
Smith answered the challenge, dropping 15 pounds over the summer and reporting to camp in August eager to prove he was up to the task.
“It has been a transition for him but he has adapted and done everything we asked of him,” said Staggs. “He really worked hard this summer and has made a definite impact for us defensively. He’s not only an emotional leader on the field, but he does his job extremely well. When he is doing his job, some other guys are going to be making plays.”
Smith’s older brother, David, was a two-year starter on the offensive line at Clemson, finishing up his career in 2011. Having an older brother who played the game at a very high level helped prepare Smith for the college game.
“He taught me a lot about what offensive linemen are trying to do to me, and I feel like I have an extra edge,” said Smith.
Chadwell recruited Smith while he was the head coach at North Greenville and is now happy he lost that recruiting battle three years ago.
“We wanted him to come to North Greenville but he felt he could play at this level, so he went to Hargrave Military Academy for a year and then ended up here,” said Chadwell. “We’re sure happy to have him. The stats don’t tell his impact. A fan just watching the game may not know his impact, but we sure do.”