According to a Salt Lake City radio station, Brigham young's Chris Smith made more academic progress during this past football season than most players make in a career. Unsure of what to make of the young man, the station identified Smith as a promising sophomore early in BYU's season, then changed its mind and tabbed him a junior midway through the season, and finally called him a senior shortly before the Cougars appeared in the Holiday Bowl. "Things were happening kind of fast," says Smith, who is, for the record, a junior.
Smith may be responsible for some of the confusion over his class status. He began his college football career in 1984 as a redshirt freshman at Arizona, left the following August to serve a two-year mission in New Mexico for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then enrolled at BYU, where he has played for three seasons. But Smith is not ready to graduate and, no matter what the agents tell him, he is not ready to join the NFL.
Of all the juniors who are considering entering the NFL draft a year early. Smith may be the ideal candidate. At 23, he is presumably mature; at 6'4", 230 pounds, he's no doubt fully grown. And as a tight end who caught 60 passes for 1,090 yards last fall, he would be a find for some pro team. "A down year for tight ends?" says New York Jets general manager Dick Steinberg. "It's always a down year for tight ends. Most players that size are playing basketball."
Over the past few weeks Smith has received calls from agents who talked about signing bonuses of as high as $3 million for a tight-end prospect with his size and credentials. "That made me think hard," says Smith. His wife, Sarah, who works as a graphic designer at an ad agency in Salt Lake City, was looking forward to spending more time at home. "She's waiting for me to bring home the bacon," says Smith.
February 12, 1990
In fact, there seemed no good reason for Smith not to turn pro. His family is committed to higher education—four older brothers received degrees from BYU and went on to do graduate work—so even if he entered the draft this spring, he would surely be hounded back into school during the off-season.
In the end, Smith made up his mind to play out his eligibility at BYU and graduate in the spring of '91. "It just didn't feel right," he says of leaving school early. "T didn't want to cheat myself out of the whole college experience. Besides, we could be great next year."
Anyway, by next year, if local radio reports continue as before, who knows what advanced degrees Smith will have added to his rèsumè. Stay tuned.