Football is often called a metaphor for life. Many aspects of the game easily parallel a person’s journey over the course of a lifetime. Football is often cited by many as having prepared them to face the challenges that life inevitably throws in their path. For former Team USA quarterback Tyler Smith, this could not be truer. Few players coming out of high school were more heralded than Smith was coming out of Wilson Area High School in Easton, Pennsylvania.
As a senior, Smith was named a SuperPrep All-American and earned honorable mention All-America selection by EA Sports. By the time he graduated, he was second all-time in Pennsylvania high school history in passing yards and touchdowns. After transferring to Elon University from the University of Maryland his freshman year, a severe injury forced him out of the game for good. However, he has never forgotten the lessons from the sport he loves nor his time as an inaugural member of the U.S. National Football Team.
EM: Tyler I know you grew up in a pretty football-centric part of the country there in Pennsylvania. When did you first start playing and do you remember why you originally wanted, to play to begin with?
TS: I played when I was young all through growing up, elementary school, middle school, and of course high school. [Football] is just what you did. I fell in love with the sport fully by the seventh grade. At that point, I was hooked.
EM: I understand you pretty much have always played quarterback. What about you, aside from the physical aspect of it, made you suited to play QB?
TS: Yep, I was never anything else. I would say being a quarterback makes up my personality and mentality even now. If you’re fortunate enough to have good coaches like I’ve had from a young age all the way up, that’s how you become a leader. I was always a lead by example kind of guy. I was the first one in, last one out. I’ve always been the QB and I’ve always been the general.
EM: If you don’t mind, let’s talk a little bit about the injury and how you went from Maryland to Elon. How did that all come about?
TS: Yeah, so I got medically disqualified the year I transferred from Maryland to Elon. I had compartment syndrome and got it my freshman year when I was at Maryland. My leg got stuck in the mud and that’s how I got injured. I developed the compartment syndrome, got the surgery, and was no longer able to play.
It took me a while until I was OK with it. I did become a student strength and conditioning coach. So that was my role on the team after that and then I followed Ted Perlak to the University of Delaware as an assistant strength coach and did that for a year. At that point, I accepted that playing was over, and I needed to figure out what to do next.
EM: That clearly had to have been hard. What about now? What all are you involved in now and does having your football background translate into what you’re doing?
TS: Now I’m in the medical sales world. I work for a company called Patterson Dental selling dental equipment. Everything from the chairs you sit on to the lights to the x-ray equipment, everything is what we sell. All my experience from football translates into what I’m doing now. Everything from scheduling out your time to be a good teammate to be a leader and taking ownership, all these things and phrases that are embedded in your brain since we were adolescents, that stuff sticks and it starts to make sense as an adult. Most people don’t know what hard work is. Working nine-to-five isn’t hard work compared to what I’ve been through.
EM: Let’s talk about your experience with the U.S. National Football Team now. What was that week like for you?
TS: It was an unbelievable experience and I still think about that whole week even today. Steve Walsh was our quarterback coach, so that was cool. When I see him on TV or hear his name, I tell people ‘Hey, he coached me.’ It was a great experience.
It was awesome being around the best of the best. There were a couple of guys going to Maryland too, so we bonded a little before college. All my buddies from my hometown came down to see me play in the game. It was such a great experience.
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EM: Would it be fair to assume that being around all of that top-tier talent that week kind of pushed you to see how good you were compared to them?
TS: Oh yeah, because up to that point, you don’t know what you don’t know. You think that the top safety in the Colonial League in small-town Pennsylvania is a beast and then you see these guys and it’s a whole different world. Having that experience of being in such a diverse environment and that whole cultural experience was just incredible.
EM: What was it like for you to get the chance to put on the Team USA uniform? Did that mean anything special to you?
TS: It was special. It was a cool thing. Wearing that Team USA was just incredible for a small-town kid like me from Easton, Pennsylvania.
EM: Last thing for you Tyler. What would you say was your favorite part of the whole experience?
TS: The whole week was great. I got to have my family and support system down there. Being able to look up into the stands and see them there while I’m playing for Team USA was a special thing. The people that you meet at an event like this, the coaches you learn from, the whole experience, the feelings you get from representing your country, there’s nothing better.