Career comes full circle for Smith

Just a scrawny freshman, Daryl Smith faced a tough task as he looked up and saw two seniors in front of him at a football practice.

He was involved in a drill in which Smith had to try and find a way past the blockers. He didn’t succeed. In fact, Smith got crushed.

“We were in the middle of the field, and they drove me all the way to the fence,” Smith said. “I told them I wanted to keep going. Ever since then, (Girard coach Pat Pearson) said I’m a fighter, and he liked me.”

Smith has started for the Indians from that point on. And nowadays, he’s the one pushing people around the football field.

Smith enters his senior year as the leader of Girard’s vaunted defense. The defensive end/linebacker is coming off a season in which he made 80 tackles — 10 for loss — and nine sacks. Now at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, Smith blends a quick first step with power and explosion, creating a forced to be reckoned with as both a lineman and a linebacker.

“We play him in our hybrid position,” Pearson said. “He can play a rush end. He can be a stand-up outside ‘backer. We can even drop him at inside linebacker at times when we go to a three-man front. He’s really versatile in our defense and with the things he can do for us.”

Smith reached this point thanks to a non-stop work ethic.

He spent the offseason getting bigger, stronger and faster. Pearson said he approaches every play with the right focus and attitude, and while he used to be a quiet leader, he now brings energy to the Indians and his teammates on a daily basis.

Smith said his mindset comes from wanting to get the most out of his final year of high school football.

“It’ my senior year, so I’m going to take it all in and not miss any moment or take any moment for granted,” he said. “I can’t get this back. It can go in the blink of an eye if I take it for granted, so I’m really excited just for our talent and seeing where it can take us.

“A lot has been on our heads, like getting to a state championship because we had a taste last year of what it takes to get to a state championship,” he added. “Losing to Perry (in the regional semifinal last year), I’m not saying it was a good thing, but it showed us what we need to work on and how hard we need to work to get to the level we want to be at.”

Smith is willing to do whatever it takes to get there as well.

While defense is his forte, he’s becoming a force on offense as well. His primary position is fullback, where he can grind out tough yards, make big blocks or snag catches out of the backfield. Like defense, he can play at multiple spots.

He has been used guard to help out a group that has five reliable starters but not a lot of depth.

“I know I’m not an offensive lineman, but I’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “If it takes me being guard to get us to a state championship, I’ll do it.”

That’s the same attitude Pearson remembers from Smith since that freshman moment.

A player with the skill and talent of a superstar also has the work ethic and the focus of someone who wants to get the most out of themselves. It’s a mixture Pearson hopes all his player learn from.

“He’s a team guy,” Pearson said. “Whatever we ask, he’s willing to do. He puts his personal (pride) aside, and like the rest of our seniors, whatever it takes for our team to be successful, that’s what he wants to do.”