The Michigan State secondary shined bright in the spotlight on Saturday against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The group held OSU quarterback Braxton Miller in check, as the junior threw 8 of 21 for just 101 passing yards. Big Ten teams received ominous news earlier in the week, too: the already dangerous Spartan secondary has another weapon. Class of 2015 cornerback Tyson Smith, one of the best recruits in the state of Michigan, committed to MSU on Wednesday.
Soon after announcing his decision, Smith spoke with Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. on Spartan Nation Radio.
Some football players are freaks of nature nearly from birth, gifted with great size or off-the-charts athleticism. Tyson Smith is not one of the blessed few.
Standing at 5’11, 173 pounds, Smith was not a prodigy. As a boy, he had skill, but his true talent didn’t emerge until later on.
“Everyone knows they’re good, but no one really knows how good they are until other people tell them. But I always thought I was one of those average kids,” Smith said. “I’m not too tall, I’m not too short, I’m not too big, I’m not too small.
“I knew I needed something to stand out, I just didn’t know what it was, so I worked out. In my sophomore year, I turned out to have a great year,” Smith said. “Guys were telling me, ‘You’re good, you have what it takes. You gotta keep working, it’s going to keep getting harder and harder for you.’ It was like a name given to me, I gotta keep it up.”
Smith’s ability and athleticism progressed, and the junior at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Michigan developed into a stud football player. His ball skills and physical play are unmatched.
The youngster credits the coaching staff for helping him expand his natural ability and become one of the best recruits in the state of Michigan.
“Our defensive backs coach does a good job because he played Division I college football, he knows what it takes. He knows everything there is,” Smith said. “I follow everything he says and learn.”
The Orchard Lake native also tributes his father for helping him learn how to play physically and strike fear into wide receivers lining up against him.
“Growing up, most cornerbacks aren’t physical. It’s not like they can’t be, it’s just that they don’t know how to be,” said Smith. “My dad always told me, ‘The more physical you are with a wide receiver, the more you’re in his head, the more he’s thinking about you.’ Even if I’m just in practice against a teammate or something, if they catch the ball and run down the field, I try to get my hands under them, hit them a few times and keep tapping them so they’re worried about me trying to knock it down.”
The Michigan State coaching staff soon heard of Smith’s growing talent and starting recruiting the youngster early on in the process. Dantonio and Co. crave a cornerback with the work ethic and talents of a player such as Smith, so much so that the Spartans became the first team to hand Smith a scholarship offer in mid-June.
“It’s really humbling,” Smith said. “They already have a bar set that you have to be at to at least get recruited by their defense. They only want the best players on their defense.”
Growing up in a Green family, Smith saw his parents’ the excitement over the offer.
“It meant more to my family than it did to me,” Smith admitted. “My family loves Michigan State, I grew up around Michigan State, I had a cousin who coached at Michigan State. I got the offer midway into the summer, which is exciting because not many kids get a Big Ten, Division I offer as a first offer. When it happened, I was thankful for it. As the season went on, watching their games, having the number one defense, it was like, ‘Wow, the number one defense in the nation and I could play for that team.’”
A number of perennial powers, such as Alabama and Ohio State, also came calling, but Smith had his mind made up. On Wednesday before the start of the Michigan State – North Carolina game, Smith announced his decision, bringing great joy to the Spartan Nation.
Smith was the second commitment for Mark Dantonio in the 2015 class and Smith plans on adding to that total with more top-notch recruits.
“I’ll definitely be trying to get other people who I feel should have the opportunity to be in East Lansing,” Smith said.
The young cornerback promises to be a great catch for the Spartans. He will fit in not only due to his budding talent, but to his humility.
Smith talked extensively about his parents and how blessed he is to have them. As he pointed out, there is no way he would be at this point today without them.
“Most people around here can be kind of immature. They have parents split or they may only have one parent. I’m glad I have two parents who are equal who I can help and direct me, and guide me,” Smith said. “Even if it’s not in football, give me guidance. If I get in trouble like kids do or mess up, I have the parents behind me to help me move forward. They know what it’s like to be a kid. Everybody makes a few mistakes. It’s all about what happens afterwards. If you can change or keep doing the same.
“My parents are just like any other parents from around here … They kind of know what it’s like to go down the wrong path, they tell me not to do that. They want to keep me in sports and make sure I’m not running around the streets, just do anything that kids do to get in trouble,” Smith said. “They just teach me to do the best things that I can. On the field and off the field, I just want to be the best that I can.”
With an attitude befitting a humble Spartan, Smith fits the mold of a typical Dantonio-recruited player. Smith will make an excellent addition to an already stacked defense, with a promising future that the Spartan Nation can be excited about.