Player Spotlight: Brandon Smith
The linebacker that many people had their eye on in last Saturday’s game against Temple University was Nyeem Wartman-White. Last year, his season stopped abruptly when he tore his ACL against the Temple Owls.
Wartman-White regained his position as one of the primary defensive leaders this season. The Daily Collegian had him as the front cover of their pre-game issue. This was his redemption game.
Redemption never came. In the second quarter, Wartman-White fell to the ground after his leg buckled. He grasped his knee while coach James Franklin and trainers towered over him. It was a similar image to the one that was splayed across the campus paper that morning. The theme that underlined the photo was a quote by Wartman-White: “No Time To Grieve.”
The fifth-year senior’s season was over, marking the third season-ending injury and second ACL tear.
In the absence of injured linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda, who would take the field?
Brandon Smith, a redshirt junior walk-on from Winfield, PA, trots onto the field. Even Penn State’s most dedicated fans are googling “Who is 47 Penn State football,” using the non-existent cellular coverage that Beaver Stadium graces fans with on Saturdays.
Temple learns very quickly who Smith is. He is the man making all the tackles.
By the end of the game; Smith recorded eight tackles, two quarterback pressures, and a pass breakup; helping lift the lions to a 34-27 victory over Temple.
Smith went to Lewisburg High School, where he played both running back and linebacker for the Green Dragons. He made exceptional grades and narrowed down his college options to Penn State and the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania.
After some prayer and a little bit of hope, he decided to gamble on Penn State rather than have a secure position at The University of Pennsylvania.
“I knew if I came to Penn State I'd be a walk-on, and the road to playing would be a lot harder and I was really passionate about football. So that was a pretty big factor in why I wanted to go to Penn for a while,” Smith said. ”I just spent a lot of time in prayer, and it just seemed like thing after thing was showing up pointing me towards Penn State.”
Initially, Smith played fullback under former head coach Bill O'Brien. When James Franklin arrived and the position became defunct, Smith switched to linebacker.
Over the past three years Smith has been on the team, he had played a total of three snaps, until last Saturday’s game.
He is currently studying to become a doctor. Balancing football and a pre-med workload isn’t easy, especially when you’re married.
“It's been awesome. I'm really busy with school and football, and she's just done an amazing job being patient with my time constraints and supporting me,” said Smith, “I have an amazing wife.”
Brandon Smith will be starting in his first game since high school this Saturday against No. 4 Michigan in ‘The Big House.’ A lot of pressure will be on the converted walk-on, but if God has anything to do with the outcome, the Penn State defense should do just fine in Ann Arbor.
Paddy Cotter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.