BELTON — During his days at Hallettsville High School, Teidrick Smith’s primary job was to bowl over any unfortunate undersized player in Class 2A that made an attempt to tackle him. Though the side of the ball changed when he got to college, the attitude and hunger stayed the same.
Smith enjoyed a breakout freshman season in 2013 as a defensive end and is poised to help the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders make another extended run in the NCAA Division III playoffs this fall.
“The thing that’s different up here are the steps and the reads,” Smith said about last season. “You’ve got to pretty much know everything on the field. You can’t just be an athlete and run around and be crazy. You’ve got to play sound football.”
The Cru opens the new campaign on Sept. 6 when they visit Millsaps College.
Smith came to Belton after dominating Class 2A opponents in South Texas as a Hallettsville Brahma.
Smith said he chose UMHB because of the family atmosphere and he felt at home in Belton.
“It’s pretty much the same thing as it was in Hallettsville, I’m used to it already,” Smith said.
It didn’t take him long to make the adjustment from the prep level to NCAA Division III.
Smith had to transition from being primarily a big, physical running back to playing defensive end for the Cru. The adjustment period was a brief one.
He stepped right into the starting lineup and established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the American Southwest Conference last year.
“The speed is a big difference,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of 4.4’s and 4.3’s in the ASC and you have to run full speed everywhere. It’s always a challenge to chase somebody down because everyone is fast around here.”
Smith started all 14 games at defensive end and finished the 2013 season with 9.5 sacks, 61 total tackles and 19 for loss. His performance earned him an All-ASC honorable mention.
Division III aficionados are anticipating more good things from Smith this year since he was voted a D3football.com Preseason All-American.
Cru head coach Pete Fredenburg said as good as Smith is at this point in his career, there is still a great deal of upside.
“We anticipate him playing really well, but he’s got to play within himself,” Fredenburg said. “He’s very, very talented; we just got to make sure he plays within himself.”
But for Smith, the individual accolades, awards and stats aren’t as sweet as extended playoff runs.
As a senior at Hallettsville, Smith helped the Brahmas advance to the Class 2A, Division I state quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Cameron Yoe. As a college freshman, Smith and the Cru advanced to the NCAA Division III national semifinals before falling to eventual national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater.
He hopes to break the trend of losing to eventual champions and be a part of that eventual champion.
“I think it motivated everybody,” Smith said. “Everybody went right to work, held their heads high ... We came together as a team and we have this bond that we’re trying to go all the way. We’re going to try and get the job done this year.”