Oct 12, 2013; Laramie, WY, USA; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith (16) warms up before the game between the Wyoming Cowboys and the New Mexico Lobos at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
Recently, I had the chance to talk to one of my highest ranked quarterbacks and the best quarterback not invited to the upcoming Scouting Combine, Brett Smith of Wyoming. The topics ranked from his career for the Cowboys, his feelings on the combine, what he is working on this offseason, a few of his teammates, and life after football.
Pete Smith: How did you end up at Wyoming?
Brett Smith: Growing up in Salem, Oregon, there isn’t a lot at all going on. Especially with football, it’s not a big deal like it is in Texas, because we lived in Texas for a little while, so I got a feel of how high school football is at a young age. And in Oregon, high school football is not as big of a deal to the state. There aren’t a lot of kids that are able to go to D-1 schools, but really, kind of the way out with some kids being able to go to Oregon and Oregon State, one of the two.
And I was kind of counting on an offer from one of them and if not them, Washington or Washington State. Washington and Washington State jumped off early because I kind of saw the writing on the wall. I kinda got the sense they were going after other quarterbacks. And then finally one day they both said no, you don’t fit the caliber to play here. Oregon kinda did the same thing and then Oregon State, I thought I had a shot. They kind of just stopped talking to me and I tried to contact them after a camp I went to and I just never heard back from them.
So, I was really disappointed, but in the midst of all of that, Wyoming offered me and they were my first offer. It felt like they were the most loyal. And when I turned away from focusing on Oregon State and Oregon and schools I had aspirations of going to and I looked at Laramie. I talked to the guy that recruited me, Pete Kaligis (defensive tackles coach) and Marcus Arroyo (former offensive coordinator, currently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach), I just really liked those two and I wanted to run the spread offense. I liked the state, I liked the city and what it represented; it was a good fit for me.
PS: How long did it take for you to fall in love with Dave Christensen’s five wide, you get to do everything offense?
BS: Yea, I fell in love pretty quick. We weren’t five wide in high school; we had a back in the backfield. Stepping into that system, there were a lot of things that were similar. I only had to learn a few new things and that was something that I loved, that was I happy to be a part of with the personnel I had around me.
PS: What has been the evolution for you as a quarterback? You ran a lot more as a freshman than you did as a sophomore and then junior year. Was that a deliberate move or was that sort of just how it worked out?
BS: It was kind of weird. It wasn’t a set plan that was in place that I was gonna run a lot. Early in the year, I didn’t run like that the first two games. I wasn’t running a whole lot; I just hold it myself and ran myself. And then as the season progressed and we were able to play a few more games, then I think he (Christensen) wanted to use my running ability a little bit more. Towards the end of the year, I was running a lot.
Then the next year, Coach (Gregg) Brandon (Wyoming quarterbacks coach) came to me and said I don’t want you to run a whole lot. I was pretty banged up by the end of the year, so we switched it.
PS: With your decision to declare, with the firing of Christensen, the hiring of Craig Bohl, what was your process to ultimately come out as a true junior?
BS: It was extremely difficult. Gosh, there were so many things that I had to think about and I was thinking about even before Christensen left, because obviously you think about it. I was focused on the year, but there was always that kind of feeling of, you know, once the season is over, what’s gonna happen? What are the options? You hear so many rumors, there were many things going on towards the end of the year about is this gonna happen with Christensen? Is it not? You know, What’s the deal? A lot of distractions that were weighing in; I thought the team did a great job of not letting it get to them. But yea, it was hard just thinking about what the deal was.
When I met Coach Bohl, I was actually very optimistic, very open to talking with him and seeing what we were going to do and his direction of the program. I think it was a harder decision not going back because he was a guy that I wanted to play for, that I wished I could have played for at some point. I just think that the way everything has played out, with what’s going on, I just wanted to chase my dream of being an NFL quarterback. I felt like the high demand the NFL has for quarterbacks this year, I just felt like I had a shot to hopefully get picked up at some point. That was just an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. If they take a lot this year, that demand is gonna decrease next year. And it’s my dream; it’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to wait any longer. I wanted to try to go take it.
PS: What do you think is the biggest benefit from playing in the offense you did as far as the next level?
BS: In regards to my offense, it is something that I have seen a few more teams run. I think it is a great system for a quarterback who can move a little bit. I like to not only throw it, but get outside the pocket and have a run/pass option and use my feet to try and move the chains in certain situations in the game.
PS: What has been the biggest area you are looking to improve as far as coming out of that system?
BS: I just want to be sharp that I’m good at drawing things on the board and understanding not just the spread offense, but learning a lot of different pro concepts; kinda the expectations for what teams have for you to know and run. I’ve been studying quite a few teams, watching a lot of film, and trying to pick up their schemes and what they like to do offensively. And obviously fine tune my mechanics; trying to stay sharp on all of that.
PS: When you watch film of the NFL, who do you gravitate towards?
BS: A lot. A lot of guys. I think, mechanically, the best that I’ve seen is probably Drew Brees. I’ve been studying his feet, his base. His, base, his feet are always shoulder width or a little bit wider than shoulder width apart and his feet never change. If he’s getting out of the pocket, he goes back to his base so he’s staying on balance. He comes over the top and throws it every time, because he’s not a big guy. He plays like he’s 6’2”. He’s able to throw the ball in tight spaces and get the ball out on time. I love studying him and I love studying Aaron Rogers too for the same exact reasons.
PS: What’s it like to throw the ball in Laramie in October?
BS: (Laughs) Not as bad as throwing it in November. It’s definitely hard. When the temperature gets into the negatives with the wind chill, it can definitely get challenging. It’s something we just had to deal with, living up there.
PS: Is there any climate you think you couldn’t play in after playing there for 3 years?
BS: No. I think after playing in that climate, I’ve seen the worst of the worst, which I’m actually happy about. I’ve played in some really cold days out there. I’m actually grateful for that. I wasn’t at the time, but now I’m pretty happy I did it.
PS: Talking to quarterbacks who have come up there to play up there, what do they say after they play a game up there?
BS: Yea, I’ve gotten actually mixed reactions. There have been some that have said, “Yea, I felt it. I couldn’t breathe” and then others that have said, “I didn’t even notice it.” The guys that said they didn’t even notice it, I don’t know how that works because when I first got there, it was a joke how bad it was for me. I was gasping for air; those first couple workouts were extremely challenging. Obviously, playing in the factors where you have a helmet and shoulder pads and it’s 10 degrees and you’re up there on the high plans of Laramie, I don’t know how you don’t feel it. But some guys said they couldn’t.
PS: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have of you?
BS: I haven’t really heard any bad things. One thing that I have heard that I would say though, are my mechanics. And I’d probably just say that when you’re getting it, you know with the offense we were running towards the end of the year, a lot of what we were doing was East-West, just lateral throws and not really having to throw it down the field. So, I was just catching and getting it out as fast as I could. And even before that, a lot of the routes we were doing were just catch and pitch it really fast like 3-4 yards. Christensen’s mentality was getting 3 yards, get another 2 or 3 yards and then hand it off and then do the same thing.
It was very rarely that we threw it down field, so I’d just say is something I’m trying to do is my fix my feet. I know my feet were really close together and I’d hang on my back foot, trying to get the ball out really fast. I think my mechanics aren’t as bad as (laughs) maybe people would say. I know they’re probably not ideal, but I’m out here working to fine tune those the best I can, so I can be ready for the next level.