Matt Smith signs to play for Northern Michigan

February 9, 2011 —

By Bill Mullaly

The past week has been a very exciting time for Hudson Tiger standout senior football player and wrestler Matthew Smith. The two-sport superstar has been dominant on the mat winning the county championship on Friday night the 28th at Adrian College in the annual county meet. He has just two losses so far on the mat in his final year as he tries to repeat as the state champion at 189 pounds. Then the next day on Saturday the 29th he was informed by Tiger head football coach Chris Luma that he had been selected to play in the annual high school football all-star game set for this June. Then over the weekend of the 29th-31st he headed to the Great White North to visit Northern Michigan University in Marquette to talk football in the hopes of landing a Division II scholarship. This past Wednesday on February 2nd, which was national signing day (NSD), Smith signed a scholarship to play college football for the Wildcats. By signing the nationalletter-of-intent

(LOI) Smith has committed to play Division II football in the GLIAC or Great Lakes Interscholastic Athletic Conference. “I am just thrilled for Matthew,” said his excited mother, Anne Smith, who accompanied him on the recruiting trip to the Upper Peninsula. “He has worked very hard for the success he has obtained and he deserves this reward of playing college football. He really liked the coach at Northern and he had a great recruiting visit. This is a great fit for him to attend NMU to get and education and to play football there.”

Smith has gained much local and statewide attention for his exploits on the gridiron and on the mat. He has been winning matches at a high rate on the varsity wrestling team for the state four years for veteran grappling coach Scott “Scooter” Marry. His wrestling highlight on a personal note has been his individual state crown last March at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Smith has been a key ingredient in the two back-to-back team state wrestling championships won by Hudson in 2009 and 2010. Last Saturday he helped the team to a runner-up finish in the annual LCAA league meet. Smith was second at 215 pounds as he wrestled up a weight class to try and help the team win a league title. Heading into this school year Smith was perhaps more well-known in the athletic realm for his exploits on the mat but his football skills were equal to his wrestling talents. Smith was the player-of-the-game in the heartstopping and thrilling 28-26 win over Ishpeming to claim the Division 7 state football championship this past Thanksgiving weekend. In leading the Tigers to the school’s first-ever state football championship the two-way end earned several honors along the way. He was everything from the team’s Defensive Most Valuable Player to an easy selection by the Detroit Free Press as a first team all-state defensive player. He was Lenawee County’s Defensive Player-of-the-Year this past fall. He was the Tigers most experienced player as the team’s lone three-year varsity player.

“I am very proud of him and one of the things as a coach that you hope to do is to help a player reach the next level of play and that is where Matt is headed,” said Tiger head coach Chris Luma. “I was talking with my assistant Danny Rogers about whether Matt was going to play in college as a defensive player or an offensive player and I think Danny gets more of the credit for this one and helping to develop his defensive abilities. We like to tease each other about over the years who has sent more players to play in college based on if they went as offensive or defensive players and defense is definitely where Matt gained most of his attention from the colleges.”

Smith was hoping to play college football and take his talents to the next level but coming from a small class C school made the challenge more difficult. He had his brother, David, sending out highlight tapes to colleges and he was drawing plenty of interest from some smaller schools like Siena Heights from Adrian. Ultimately, Smith’s path to NMU started innocently enough with an e-mail from a prominent local businessman. The Wildcats head coach Bernie Anderson is a high school graduate of Ishpeming. Anderson was sent an e-mail just days before the state title game letting him know that since he was most likely going to be watching the Division 7 championship game between Hudson and Ishpeming that he ought to keep an eye on number 84 from Hudson. A follow up phone call by the businessman and then another phone call by a former NMU player from Hudson sparked some interest from the Wildcats in Smith.

One thing led to another and Smith was on the radar of the NMU coaching staff. Things heated up in the recruiting process in the latter days of January and finally a planned recruting trip was worked out for the 6-4, 210 pound Smith who has dropped almost 20 pounds for the wrestling campaign. Anderson, a former wrestler in high school himself, understands Smith’s situation as he tries to cut weight during this grappling season. “One of the things I really liked about the recruiting trip to Northern was the coaching staff,” said Smith, who wants to study criminal justice at NMU. “I met with coach Anderson and the outside linebacker coach and I felt very comfortable with them. I really liked the environment there and I am an outdoorsman so this is the place for me.”

Smith is projected to be a defensive outside linebacker or a drop defensive end in the Wildcats plans for him when he arrives at NMU this summer. He will report in the early days of August but he has other pressing business to take care of first. “My only interest right now is to help my wrestling team to win its third consecutive team state championship,” said the team-first Smith. “Then I want to repeat as a state champion to finish my wrestling career.” Smith liked the NMU coaching staff and it is safe to say they liked him as well. “Matt is a perfect fit for our school and he is what we are looking for in a recruit,” said head coach Anderson. “He has great character, is solid academically and he has a great history of success on the athletic field and wrestling mat. I want him to bring that success in athletics with him to Northern. I feel he is a perfect fit for us. He is an exceptional athlete and I know he is a champion in what he does and I look forward to him bringing that mindset to our school. He is a big, physical player who has the right work ethic, is tough and has a positive attitude. I just know he is a perfect fit for our program.”

After Smith finishes his wrestling career he will get a chance to suit up and where his Tiger headgear one more time. He will play for the East squad at Central Michigan University in late June on Saturday the 25th in the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association All-Star game. His selection is a first for Hudson in coach Luma’s 14-year tenure. “I was thrilled when he was selected to play in the game and I pushed hard for him to be on that team,” said Luma about his prize player. “I would have to say he is the best tight end that I have coached here in my 14 years. He is just a great football player and I am happy for him to have the opportunity to play in college and further his education.”

Luma also knows that Smith’s going to play at the next level is good for everyone associated with Hudson football. “It is like the Northern coach said to me that if the first one works out for them then it will be a bit easier to get a second player from Hudson into their program,” noted Luma in his talks with NMU coach Anderson.

Smith, who is the son of Jerry and Anne, is appreciative of all who have helped him obtain this chance to play football in college with the scholarship offer from NMU. “I want to thank my parents, my brother David, my coaches like both coach Lumas, coach Rogers and coach Marry and for Tim Zacharias for his help with the e-mails and phone calls on my behalf,” said Smith, who will minor in natural resources. “I am just so happy to be going to NMU to get an education and to play football and I am happy that they wanted me. I really feel this is the best fit for me in all aspects.”

Smith left his legacy on the gridiron and will soon leave it on the mat for the Tigers and hopefully his days of playing football in the Superior Dome will be happy and healthy ones as well. For Smith the future looks bright as he prepares to cross the bridge into the next phase of his athletic career.