By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Injuries are a part of any sport — and something Sam Smith knows all to familiar with.
From broken legs and dislocated kneecaps to a fracture in his foot last fall, Smith has been through it all over his four-year career at Stillwater High School.
Perhaps that’s why Monday’s signing in the Pioneer Fieldhouse was so special for the three-sport star.
“I guess it means I’m going to have to get more broken legs and dislocated kneecaps,” Smith, who ran cross country, track and played soccer, said with a smile. “But I’m looking forward to every minute of it. I’ve been through a lot of injuries, but I’m just going to keep drudging along.”
Smith signed a national letter of intent to play soccer and run track for Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee Monday, making him a rarity among Stillwater athletes.
“I’ve been here for 29 years and I don’t remember anybody doing two sports (in college),” said Dan Zeroski, Stillwater’s cross country coach and assistant track coach. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing — to have an athlete that talented that he’s able to do two sports.”
There wasn’t much doubt that Smith was a college caliber player at some level. But when it came down to it, he just couldn’t decide between his first love — soccer — and a newly found love on the track.
So he chose both.
“I just love playing sports,” Smith said. “Being in two different sports in college, I get to play sports year round. I never have to stop. That’s really going to keep me motivated to work out throughout the summer and train year round.”
It’s also that kind of motivation that earned Smith the two scholarships.
Relying solely on his own recruiting process for soccer, Smith began catching the eye of the Oklahoma Baptist coaching staff during his sophomore and junior seasons. But it took a Stillwater connection before Bison coach Ford Mastin realized Smith had the potential to make an impact for Oklahoma Baptist’s track team.
“He’s going OBU, where the (Mastin) is a C.E. Donart graduate,” Zeroski said. “He always tries to recruit Stillwater and that’s because they’re all good kids.”
“It helps a lot,” Smith said. “I actually know (Mastin’s) daughter. She’s a close friend to my sister-in-law, so I got to know the family a little bit. It also helps to know that coach Mastin was in Stillwater teaching several years ago and Zeroski knew him as well.”
Now, it looks like Mastin and Oklahoma Baptist soccer squad may have hit the jackpot with the Stillwater senior.
“They’re getting a competitive, fiery guy who will go up against anybody,” Stillwater soccer coach Seth Condley said. “He has a motor that never stops. Every year, you say you’re going to miss a senior, but he’s one of the top that’s come through here in a long time. ... There’s always a transition period when you go from high school to college, but just his work ethic and demeanor will help him pick up right where he left off. They’re getting a good one.”
Playing two sports in college may be a little bit of a burden on Smith, but as his former coaches will attest, it’s nothing he won’t be able to handle.
“The cool thing about it is that soccer in college is in the fall and track is in the spring,” Condley said. “So there shouldn’t be any conflicts. Now, in the spring there might be a little bit for spring soccer and stuff, but it’s a really cool deal and a special moment just to watch him sign.”
Not having to balance two sports at once? That’s almost unheard of for Smith. So the real question becomes, what will he do with his spare time? Train for the other sport? Sleep?
Try majoring in pre-med, of course.
“I’m hoping it will be a little easier (than balancing track and soccer),” Smith said. “I’m only going to take 14 hours per semester to manage everything that I’m doing. I think it will be good. I have good friends and tutors that will help me get through the classes.”
And all of that could come in handy whether he’s on the soccer pitch or running around the track.
“I guess I’ll still have a medical bill to pay,” Smith said with a laugh. “I’ll probably dislocate my kneecap eventually. I’ll keep having injuries, but I’ll keep getting past them and keep recovering from them and getting stronger as I go.”