By Liz Heidenreich
Arizona Athletics Media Relations
In the world of sports the term “leader” is often associated with individuals who are vocal and boisterous in their actions. Junior linebacker Marcus Smith is neither vocal nor boisterous, but there is no denying that he has established himself as one of the leaders of the Arizona football team.
“I see myself as a silent leader,” Smith explained. “I don’t say too much and everybody knows that. I try to do what is right and lead by example.”
The “example” Smith refers to is one that has been generated through a combination of hard work and passion, both of which have helped him to develop superior knowledge of the game. The coaching staff recognizes Smith’s ability to lead without saying a word, and they appreciate it.
“I think leadership is one of the most important qualities anyone can have,” explained defensive ends coach Joe Robinson. “Everybody leads in different ways. He brings a tremendous amount of ability to our defense. He brings leadership because he is a smart player and he understands this game.”
Smith’s quiet contributions are not limited to his time on the football field. Although spare time is a rarity in the life of a collegiate football player, he uses what time he does have to assist in the community.
“I used to work a lot with Habitat for Humanity while I was at home,” he said. “Now I do community service with the team and do things like go to the hospital and visit with the kids. I enjoy it and I know the kids have a good time seeing us. It is hard because football is so hectic.”
As a child living in San Diego, Smith looked up to Junior Seau and he is the reason he sports the number 55. He acknowledges that the position he has placed himself in as a collegiate athlete automatically makes him a role model for children.
“I have no choice but to see myself as a role model,” he said. “Most kids these days look up to athletes as role models. I figure I’m a pretty good role model. I try to do what is right.”
During his years in high school at Mission Bay High School in San Diego, Calif., kids looked up to Smith as more than a football player, he was an all-around athlete. He earned four letters in football, two in baseball and four in basketball, and although the majority of his efforts at the U of A are put into football, he still finds time for the courts.
“I had a better opportunity with football,” he said. “I love playing basketball at the rec center. I just love basketball as a sport. It’s fun to watch the basketball team play and every once in a while I get to play with them in pick up games.”
Growing up, Smith relied on the constant support of his mother in athletics and in life. Although he decided to go out-of-state for college, he never has to look farther then the stands to see her support.
“My mom goes to every game, home and away,” he said. “Sometimes she’ll get in the car and drive and sometimes she’ll fly to the game.”
In addition to the never-ending encouragement of his mother, Smith relies on his connection with religion to get him through the challenging times the football season can present.
“I try to correlate football and religion together. I know without religion you don’t have much strength in anything else,” he explained.
Smith has relied on that strength to carry him through the ups and downs that have come with being a member of the Arizona football team over the past two seasons. He is optimistic that times have changed for the better and the team will continue to improve.
“I see a great improvement in this team defensively, I think everybody does,” he said. “You don’t have to be a football expert to see that we have gotten better. I expect us to pull out some of these close games and gain more experience with each game. We need to be able to say after each game that we gave it our all and we played hard. The key is to constantly improve.”
Smith has done his part to remain consistent to ensure that the team continues to improve.
“Marcus is a very talented player,” Head Coach Mike Stoops said. “He has played well all year and has played consistently. He does a great job every day and is constantly giving all of his efforts.”
Through all the changes and transitions of the program, Smith has remained focused and has been a reliable member of the defense. He attributes his steadiness to the bond he has developed with his teammates.
“It hasn’t been difficult to stay consistent,” he said. “I just know I have to focus on what I can do. Even if all the coaches change, you still have the same teammates and that’s who you really play for. We know we have to stick together. After all we’ve been through over the past three years, we realize we always have each other.”
Smith has high hopes for the team and he has confidence that he and his teammates will be able to say that they were a part of the team that turned the Arizona football program in the right direction.