Smith’s pro hopes on hold

Published 9:42 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

Adam Smith’s dream of playing professional football this year came to a halt. His dream, though, has not come to an end.

After completing his career at Guilford College, Smith was doing his best to make something special happen in either the NFL or at least the Canadian Football League (CFL). A torn hamstring ruined that idea.

Smith, who made 13 catches in his second collegiate game in 2012, had a spectacular career for the Quakers. His list of accomplishments is lengthy.

He made first team All-ODAC three times. He set numerous league and school records as a senior, when he had 89 receptions for 1,262 yards and 18 touchdowns. The 18 TDs set a Guilford record and rank second in ODAC history. As a senior, he had four games with 10-plus catches, seven with 100-plus receiving yards and six with two-plus TDs. He left Guilford as its career leader in receiving yards (3,988), TDs (46), games with at least 100 receiving yards (19) and scoring (280 points). He ranks 14th among NCAA Division III’s career leaders in TDs and 22nd in receiving yards.

That came on the heels of a brilliant senior season at Davie. After serving as a reliable cornerback on the 2010 team that finished as state 4-A runner-up, Smith in 2011 passed for 1,917 yards and 18 TDs along with rushing for 771 yards and 11 TDs to lead the War Eagles to 8-4.

At Guilford, Smith and his senior class did amazing things for the Quakers, going from 5-5 in 2012 to 6-4 in 2013 to 8-2 in 2014 to 9-1 in 2015.

“I had a ton of fun,” Smith said. “Going into my senior year, I knew where I stood in the record books and I knew where I needed to be. With the competitiveness in me, I wanted to be the best. My senior class, we really changed everything at Guilford. The year before I got there, they were 2-8. We scored a lot of points and had a lot of fun. We succeeded at changing something and had a lot of fun while doing it.”

Smith received the honor of playing in two all-star games – the National Bowl in Miami on Dec. 6 and The Dream Bowl at Virginia Beach on Jan. 18.

“In both all-star games, there were a lot of guys, especially at receiver, and it was kind of hard to get some time,” he said. “But I had a good catch in both games – 15 yards in the one in Miami and a 30- or 40-yarder in the one in Virginia.”

On Dec. 7, Smith began working out with a personal trainer with hopes of impressing scouts/coaches and latching onto one of 32 NFL teams or one of nine CFL teams. He went to work with a whatever-it-takes philosophy. Even though Smith has consistently been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, there’s a stigma with being a prospect from a D-III school. His size (5-10, 172) also works against him.

But Smith is a fearless competitor, and he was determined to prove people wrong.

“My trainer got me ready for the NFL combine and my pro day,” he said. “The NFL regional combine went very well. I thought off of that I would get the looks that I was really wanting. And then three days later, I was working out with a few guys that play in Canada. I went to make a cut and my hamstring popped.”

Other than a broken hand during his senior year of Davie basketball, it was the first significant injury of Smith’s life.

“Three weeks later was my pro day and I wasn’t healthy,” he said. “All of my times and measurables were the worst they’d ever been because I had an extremely unhealthy hamstring.”

Two weeks later, Smith went all out at a CFL workout. The hamstring held up and he was pleased with the showing. Two weeks later, Smith performed for another CFL team. This one, however, ended early and painfully.   

“I had a workout with the Calgary Stampeders (of the CFL) and I performed very well,” he said. “I thought my hamstring was healthy and ready to go. They were fairly interested; they talked to my agent a lot.

“Two weeks following that workout, I went to work out for the BC Lions (of the CFL). They were interested even before I came to the workouts. They were ready to see me. The first 40-yard dash, I ran about 35 yards and my hamstring popped again.

“Every since then, it’s been a nagging injury because I did it two times so close to each other. According to my agent, that has kind of been what killed my process – just that one injury.

“It’s hard to think about it, but I definitely think if I would have had a healthy pro day, I think I would have been pulled into somebody’s (NFL) camp. If I would have been cut after a tryout, I think I end up transitioning to Canada.”

All along, Smith was thinking of a backup plan if playing football was not meant to be in 2016. On June 29, he was offered an assistant coaching job at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. The next day he accepted the position of coaching wide receivers at one of Guilford’s rivals.

“I wanted a backup plan if (playing) football continues to not work out,” he said. “I wanted to go coach and stay around the game. Hampden-Sydney is a big rival to Guilford, but I have a lot of respect for them. I took about 20 hours to mull it over and I eagerly called (coach Marty Favret) and told him that I’d love to. So I’m going to coach and I’m going to stay in shape, continue to work out and build connections any way I can – whether it’s coaching or playing football.

“I’ve spent the last few summers here at the high school helping out a little bit (as an intern assistant). It’s almost a similar feeling to when I score a touchdown, but it’s a different type of satisfaction. When I see them do something and I coach them up and then the next time they’re out there they do it and succeed, it’s awesome.”

Smith is a resilient man. When Hampden-Sydney’s season concludes in 2016, he’s going to give pro football one more shot. It would be a Hollywood story. If anyone has the heart and willpower to pull it off, it’s Adam Smith.

“The coaching position right now is five months,” he said. “It’ll go through December. It’s renewable at that point. I talked to my agent the other day and he said I owe it to myself and all of my abilities could transition to me being a household name in Canada as a receiver. So we’re definitely going to give it one more go-around – go to all the tryouts and try to find another pro day. If I’m healthy, I have a lot of confidence.”