JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – It’s been a disappointing season for the East Tennessee State football team, but it certainly hasn’t been the fault of senior defensive back Artevius Smith.
The 5-foot-10, 179-pound Smith has been terrific on defense all season, twice earning Southern Conference player of the week honors on that side of the ball.
No one recognizes his contributions more than ETSU head coach Randy Sanders.
“Art’s had a tremendous year, no question. And I think when he looks back, he will really think highly of his time here at ETSU,” Sanders said. “I think obviously he’s grown up; he’s matured. I think Steve Brown, our secondary coach, has done a phenomenal job of building a relationship with him and helping Art get to the point that he’s at right now.”
Smith has been a leader all season, leading ETSU in solo tackles (45), total tackles (66), interceptions (4) and passes defended (tied with Tyree Robinson with 8). He has also assisted on 21 tackles, broken up four passes, forced one fumble and recorded one stop for negative yardage, all while playing with a high motor on the field.
“He just brings a lot of energy, a lot of emotion. A lot of people aren’t really vocal, they’re not really up front with their emotions with how they feel,” ETSU senior defensive lineman Nasir Player said. “He’s real passionate about playing. It carries over to the rest of the people out there. It’s fun having him out there.
“Like when he played offense we were never really on the field together. So, now that we’re on defense and we’re both starting together I look back there and see him, I’m like, ‘That’s my boy and he has my back.’ It’s cool having him out there.”
A multi-sport athlete who starred in football and track in high school, Smith arrived at ETSU as an offensive player, picking up 192 all-purpose yards as a running back, receiver and return specialist as a freshman for the Bucs.
“In high school I had to end up transitioning to offense where I was a running back and a tight end,” Smith said. “I had to move to running back after our all-time leading rusher went down with an injury.”
He returned to defense as a sophomore for ETSU, seeing mostly action on special teams before earning a starting spot in the secondary last season, recording 30 tackles and two interceptions.
“He is one of the hardest working guys on the team. Not only when he’s out on the practice field, but he studies film. He works at it,” Sanders said. “I know coach Brown is always talking about how he’s getting text messages from Art with questions late at night, and in the morning, during the day where he’s studying.
“He’s really taken preparation to heart. It’s amazing how when you prepare, truly prepare like he’s prepared, how you see success on the field. Hopefully [that is] a great lesson for the rest of our football team.”
Smith isn’t the biggest guy on the football field, but certainly doesn’t mind delivering a hit on defense. In fact, he would rather it be that way.
“I would rather, you know the saying, give the lick then to take one,” he said. “I just try to take one play at a time, focus on the little details, and just emphasize what I’ve been going over in practice and my film study.”
Smith and the Bucs (2-7, 0-6), who have lost five games in a row, return to action on Saturday at Western Carolina. The Catamounts defeated VMI last week, leaving ETSU as the only winless team in the Southern Conference.
Expect Smith to do all he can to help the Bucs get that elusive win. He’s just built that way.
“It’s just natural and it’s just shows how much I care about the game and just the people, my teammates, and coaches,” said Smith, who doesn’t try to hide his emotions on the field. “I’ll go a hundred percent} all the way for them. I’d go to the grave for them. I’d go to war with them, so I really just appreciate them for just bringing that out of me.”
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