He had chances to stay close to home and play college football at what you might consider mid-majors.
But talk about timing. Just as Youngstown, Ohio All-State quarterback Brad Smith was pairing down his choices, a head coach from one of those interested schools got hired to lead the University of Missouri football program.
“We needed an impact player – somebody to kind of hang our hat on – and the Good Lord gave me Brad Smith,” said Gary Pinkel, hired from Toledo of the Mid-American Conference, or MAC.
The rest became history. Great history. In fact, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Smith with the Class of 2017 after the quarterback launched Mizzou into a golden era under Pinkel.
His induction is part of the Hall of Fame’s Football Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company, set for 11 a.m. on Monday, October 16 at the University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield. (For tickets, call 417-889-3100.)
Playing from 2002 to 2005, Smith led the Tigers to two Independence Bowls (2003 and 2005) and Mizzou’s first win against Nebraska since 1978. When he finished his college career, he was the most productive dual-threat quarterback in the history of the sport, as no other player in NCAA history had thrown for 8,000 yards and run for 4,000 yards.
Along the way, Smith was a Freshman All-American in 2002 and, in 2005, an All-Big 12 Conference selection. Just as notable, he remains all over the Mizzou all-time record books, including No. 1 in career rushing yards and No. 2 in career passing yards.
And that’s the Cliff Notes version of a player who saw his future through a different lense in 2001, when Pinkel moved to Columbia.
“You looked at the school and, as a kid, what’s the biggest school?” Smith recalled. “And they played Oklahoma and Nebraska. You thought, ‘It’s supposed to be a pretty good league.’”
Little did anyone suspect that Smith would kick-start Mizzou to 99 wins between 2002 and 2015, Pinkel’s final year? The two Independence Bowls were the first of 10 in that stretch and laid the groundwork toward five 10-win seasons.
All of which came after Mizzou red-shirted Smith in 2001, meaning he would sit out that season. The QB didn’t complain.
“None of my family had played (college sports), so we didn’t know how it worked,” Smith said. “You just did what you had to do. You put your head down and worked hard.”
Credit Justin Gage, center A.J. Ricker and assistant coach David Yost for taking Smith under their wing, helping the quarterback become acclimated on and off the field.
At times, he would call back home and get support, too, from his mom, Sherrie Brogdon, or siblings Joshua and Philecia.
“I was in (Yost’s) office a lot just wanting to learn more about how to play quarterback,” Smith said. “He didn’t kick me out. He helped me learn.”
But Smith took the onus on himself to make himself better. For instance, Pinkel will never forget a Sunday night when he spotted the lights still on at the indoor facility.
“And Brad had a trash can about 30 yards down and about three footballs and, at 10:30 at night, he’s throwing footballs,” Pinkel said. “He, along with his teammates, ignited our football program.”
Said Smith, “In football, whoever we played against, I was going to out-work them. You might be more athletic, my confidence came from working hard.”
In 2003, Mizzou beat Nebraska 41-24 as Smith led a 27-point fourth quarter to help the Tigers overcome a 10-point deficit. Smith raged for 303 total yards in the rain at Faurot Field.
“People watched him, they understood that the future of Mizzou football was going to be good because we had somebody behind center – and could impact people around him,” Pinkel said.
To Smith, he was only part of the show.
“Defense and special teams were great,” Smith said. “I wanted to do something to help those guys and match their intensity.”
Smith is still holds Mizzou’s records for most … points scored in a game (30); touchdowns in a game (5) and season (19) and career (46) by a non-kicker; and 100-yard rushing games (18).
Ultimately, Smith played nine seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and kick returner from 2006 to 2014, seeing playing time with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. He now lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Rosalynn, and son Alex and daughter, Brea.
“I loved the game,” Smith said. “But it wasn’t my whole life. I liked to keep it in perspective. My mom always told me, football is just one thing you can do. Whatever you do, do it to glorify God.’”
Football Kickoff Luncheon presented by Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company.
When: 11 a.m. Monday, October 16
Where: University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center
Inductees: Former University of Missouri quarterback Brad Smith, Missouri State University coach Jesse Branch, Waynesville High School coach Rick Vernon as well as two state championship high school football teams – 1981 Greenwood Laboratory and 1997 Springfield Catholic.
Elite 11 honorees: Shannon Crouch (Seneca High School/Pittsburg State University), Mitch Espy (Marshfield High School/Missouri State), Mikael Cooper-Falls (Hillcrest High School/Missouri State), Jacob Hamon (Branson High School/Evangel University), Fred Harle (Raytown High School/Missouri State), Ryan Howerton (Lebanon High School/Lindenwood University/Mizzou), Shem Johnson (Parkview High School/Benedictine College/Indoor Football League), Eric Ramsey (Warsaw High School/Missouri Western University), Nick Smart (Marionville/Southwest Baptist University), Matt Wehner (Lebanon High School/Missouri Southern) and Rodney Witt (Ava High School/Missouri State).
Tickets: Sponsorship tables of eight, which include an autographed print and special recognition in the printed program, are $400. A head table ticket is $100, and an individual ticket is $40. Numerous sponsorships also are available, including congratulatory ads.
Our number: 417-889-3100