Article by Ian Grande
Bismarck- Former Stanley Blue Jay Landon Smith will wrap up his collegiate football career this weekend when the University of Mary Marauders take on the Minot State Beavers. Smith was an excellent two-way player for the Stanley Blue Jay football team and one of the leaders of the 2011 State Championship team.
The Stanley Gazette was fortunate enough to catch up with the former Blue Jay standout for an interview:
Stanley Gazette: What was going through your mind when you first went down to the University of Mary?
Landon Smith: Initially when transitioning from high school to college I didn’t really know what to expect. I was told what to expect, but I honestly didn’t take anyone seriously when they told me college was going to be a “rude awakening”. I was an 18 year old kid who was full of confidence and thought I had it all figured out.
Stanley Gazette: How quickly did you realize that things were going to be more difficult than you initially expected?
Landon Smith: I didn’t see myself having any issues making the transition. In fact, I was excited for it. I saw it as finally getting that taste of freedom that I had been craving. From an 18 year old’s perspective, all I saw was two or three classes a day and done by noon, no curfew, and I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted, when I wanted. However, that feeling was very short-lived once reality set in. It didn’t even take a month before I felt overwhelmed and realized that my parents, teachers, and coaches weren’t lying. The transition to college wasn’t nearly as easy as I had anticipated.
Stanley Gazette: It is pretty common for freshman to have some difficulty transitioning to college, did you feel any regret creeping in early on?
Landon Smith: Seemingly out of nowhere I went from being 100-percent certain that I was making the right choice to being 100-percent uncertain of where I was even going with my life. Suddenly, I found myself questioning my major, my school, and even whether or not I wanted to continue playing football.
Stanley Gazette: What helped you get through the initial rough patch?
Landon Smith: It was at this point in my life that I realized the magnitude of the lessons Coach Enget was trying to teach us. When I felt like quitting I remembered why I signed up to go to University of Mary in the first place. I remembered that it wasn’t always about me and that I had teammates and coaches that were counting on me. I remembered that I had kids looking up to me and that I had a little brother and sister at home watching my every step. When I signed my National Letter of Intent I gave my word to an entire program that I would be there for four years through thick and thin.
Stanley Gazette: Is there anything that stands out to you about Lyne Enget as a football coach?
Landon Smith: Coach Enget always took pride in being the most prepared team going into every game. He and his coaching staff believed that whichever team was the most prepared and executed the best was going to win the game. If that meant spending an extra half hour at practice running plays, then that’s what we were going to do. We practiced a play until it was executed correctly. I believe this developed a sense of trust amongst us players because we always knew what our responsibility was and that the guys lined up next to us knew theirs as well.
Stanley Gazette: Were there any lessons from Coach Enget that helped you in your personal life?
Landon Smith: Many of the lessons that Coach Enget taught me as player translated over into my personal life as well. He always stressed to his players the importance of the team aspect. He did a really nice job of getting his teams to buy into it. On his team, no single player was above the rest. If someone made a good play it was because everyone else did their job and allowed for them to be successful. This taught us to push aside our own self-interests, deflect any praise. He taught us to have fun and play for one another because when one of us was successful, we were all successful, just as when one of us failed, we all failed.
Another piece of advice that Coach Enget and his staff taught us was that not everything was always going to go our way, we could only ever control what we could control. If anything ever happened that wasn’t in our favor, we were taught to flush it and look forward to the next play. In my opinion, this lesson along with a sense of selflessness, are the most important lessons that I learned while playing under coach Enget and his staff. Just like bad plays and bad games, we are always going to experience bad days in life where we have to learn from it and move on.
Stanley Gazette: What were some of the differences you noticed between high school and collegiate athletics?
Landon Smith: Being a collegiate student-athlete is much more strenuous than it ever was as a high school student-athlete. College athletes are generally only involved in one sport, whereas generally high school students are multi-sport athletes, but in college that one sport is literally all year round. What makes it more difficult is that more is expected of you, you’re held to a much a much higher standard. You’re not playing against teams with one or two solid athletes anymore. At the college level you’re practicing with and playing against athletes from all over the country who were key players on their high school teams. All of a sudden you’re the low man on the totem pole and you have to learn to adapt to a new culture and new set of rules.
Stanley Gazette: What was a typical day like as a collegiate athlete?
Landon Smith: The competition level is so high, but so is the work out volume and meeting room time. As a college athlete you’re not expected to simply show up for practice anymore. At this level, you’re expected to be able to balance much more than that, with no one there but yourself to hold you accountable. You may be taking less classes than you did in high school, but the homework load becomes more intense and takes up more time throughout the day. This is where you have to learn to budget your time wisely. The time regular students have to work on homework, athletes are busy with either practice, workouts, meetings, treatments, film, etc.
Also, there are many athletes, like myself, who work part-time jobs up to 20-25 hours a week and the only time available to make some money is in the evenings. Over the course of my career this all made for many late nights and early mornings because a large portion of my homework that I didn’t have time to do during the day could only be done at 10/11 o’clock at night when I got off work when more often than not I had to be up at 5 the next morning for workouts.
Stanley Gazette: It had to be difficult to juggle all of the expectations and obligations at times?
Landon Smith: Being a college athlete is very rigorous and demanding, and it began to feel like a drag at times because so much is expected of you. If you’re committed enough, you won’t t always have the time to do whatever it is you want to do. If you want to be a successful athlete in college, you have to be willing to make a few sacrifices, and the biggest thing you’ll have to sacrifice is time. It takes time to put in the necessary work to be able to do what is expected of you. At the college level, you’re on your own for the most part. You’re expected to prepare to be able perform at a high level, both on and off the field.
Stanley Gazette: What are some fond memories that you have of the 2011 State Championship team?
Landon Smith: Even though it’s only been five short years, I have hard time remembering stats and scores of our championship season. However, I do remember the culture of our team and that’s something that just can’t be forgotten. For many of us upperclassmen that year, we had been playing varsity and contributing as starters for 2-3 seasons together; so we had a very good chemistry with one another both on and off the field. For the most part we were a very close-knit group with many similarities, but yet we had a variety of personalities. We never let our differences come between us though. As a whole, everyone respected each other’s own individuality and held each accountable for their own actions. If someone wasn’t behaving off the field, then we made sure that they knew they were potentially hurting the team and not just themselves.
Above all, perhaps the most memorable part of that season was all the love and support we had from the community. We as players knew the tradition of Blue Jay football and the impact it had on the community. Nothing meant more to us than to bring back another State Championship and pay the community back for the years they watched the program struggle.
Stanley Gazette: What are some of your major takeaways from your time at the University of Mary?
Landon Smith: If there is anything that I have learned during my time as a collegiate student-athlete, it’s that I’m always a part of sometime bigger than myself. With that mindset it is easy to keep going once the going gets tough. When I first started my college career I wanted out within the first month. I was feeling overwhelmed and was uncertain about the direction I was heading. All of the sudden, I didn’t like where I was and felt as though I made the wrong choice and started looking for other alternatives and other places to go. I’m convinced that no one can truly prepare you what you experience once you get to college. It’s just important to understand that it is not easy and that it’s only the beginning of a much harder chapter in life.
Throughout my career, I saw a lot of smart and talented players come and go because they didn’t have the same mind set I did. They weren’t happy with their original choice, and when the going got tough and things weren’t going as planned for them they sought a different solution.
Looking back on my decision, I’m glad I decided to stick through the tough times. Yes, my career didn’t go nearly the way I had imagined it, but when it’s all said and done it isn’t about the stats or the wins and losses.
To me, it has been more about the relationships I have established and the fact that finished what I started.
Stanley Gazette: How has school been going and what are your plans for next year?
Landon Smith: I will be graduating in December with cumulative 3.4 GPA with my Bachelors is Business Administration and an Economics Minor. Upon graduation, I am looking to pursue a career as a Financial Advisor and hopefully coach high school football.
The Stanley Gazette also caught up with current Moorhead State standout Abe Roehrich to get his thoughts on his former teammate. Roehrich and Smith helped guide the Blue Jays to the 2011 State Championship.
Stanley Gazette: What was it like playing with Landon Smith?
Abe Roehrich: Playing with Landon was a blast! He always played the game the right way. Landon was the kind of guy that you were glad you didn’t have to play against, because he was on your team. He always worked hard and gave everything he had whether it was working out or playing in a game.
Stanley Gazette: How was it being able to play against him for the last few years?
Abe Roehrich: It was fun to be able to play against him the last couple years. We were never able to match up on the field since both of us played defense, but it was great to see a familiar face on the other side of the ball. Also, I think it’s awesome that Stanley is able to give so many kids the opportunity to play college sports!
What: University of Mary Mauraders vs. Minot State Beavers Football Game
Where: Minot State, Herb Parker Stadium
When: Saturday Novermber 12th, 1pm
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Categories: Local Sports