It simply reads, “It’s on you,” and it’s a message that if he wants to break out and emerge during his final season at West Virginia, he has to be the one to get it done. And there’s no one else he can blame if he does not succeed.
“After he watched (Charles Sims) get drafted last year, I brought him in and said, ‘If you can’t make it to the league and make money playing this game you love, that’s your own fault,’” Seider said. “He’s got all the potential in the world and if he wants to play on Sundays he can do it. But whether or not he gets there it’s on him.”
That’s a message Smith has carried with him during the offseason, and it’s carried over into camp as he has gone to battle with a handful of his teammates all with the common goal of earning the starting job on a West Virginia team that touts one of its deepest groups of talent in the backfield in recent memory. Up to this point it’s worked, and Smith can tell an obvious difference in the way he has approached his last year.
“Ever since we talked I’ve had a different mindset,” Smith said. “Whether it’s in the weight room, in the film room, getting any extra work in that I can, I’m going out there and getting it done.
“If I don’t make it, it’s all my fault. You can’t point the finger at nobody but yourself. I take that and run with it.”
The road hasn’t been easy for Smith to get to this point.
Before he came to West Virginia, Smith was a kid from Wichita, Kan., who was getting ready for his freshman season at the University of Kansas – where he was recruited to play for the Jayhawks by former head coach Turner Gill. A three-star recruit out of high school, Smith’s road to major college football in the Big 12 Conference was detoured when his ACT scores made it difficult for him to qualify to get into KU.
He became a star at Butler Community College for two seasons while leading his team to two junior college national championship games, winning one to end his freshman campaign. He carried the ball 120 times his sophomore season, gaining 984 yards while scoring 17 touchdowns, and started picking up attention from more and more FBS programs. Kansas came back into the picture, as did other Big 12 schools like Kansas State and Oklahoma State, Houston, Boise State and Central Florida. But none of those schools called to him quite like West Virginia did at the time.
“When I didn’t get into Kansas, I wasn’t very happy. I didn’t think at the time that I would say this but that was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” Smith said.
“I’m in a situation that is just so much better for me right now. This was the right choice.”
Since he has gotten to Morgantown, Smith has found himself in the middle of what Seider has constantly referred to over the course of the last two seasons as something that is as close to an NFL environment as he can be in. For both of the seasons Smith has been at WVU, he has had to compete with a bunch of running backs who could all be the starter – the one who plays the best each day and is the most consistent will get the carries.
Last year, it was Sims who earned the job, and he emerged as one of the nation’s most versatile running backs and was the second back drafted in the NFL draft. This season, as he sees his days in college football starting to come to a close, Smith is doing whatever he can to make sure that he is the next Mountaineer running back to get a chance to make a name for himself at the next level.
He wants to do it for his coaches and his family. He wants to show them all the hard work was worth it.
“You don’t want to feel like you’ve let anyone down. You don’t want to look back and have any of those woulda, coulda, shoulda’s,” Smith said. “I want to go to my family and our coaches at the end of it all and say thank you for pushing me so hard to improve myself and getting me to the point where I succeeded in making my dreams a reality.”