Smith can relate to three levels
What’s the difference between high school football, college and the NFL from a pure, altruistic standpoint?
Penn State assistant coach Terry Smith tackled that subject and gave some interesting insight during a video call with reporters Wednesday morning.
Smith once was head coach at Gateway High School in Monroeville and currently is the Nittany Lions’ cornerbacks coach. He played three seasons in the Canadian Football League, and his stepson, former PSU player Justin King, played in the NFL.
All of that varied experience gives Smith some good perspective on the differences between the levels of football.
“Every level, in my opinion, in the locker room, you lose slightly a little bit,” Smith said. “You go from high school, where that locker room is so pure and so genuine, there’s no money involved in it, they’re doing it because they love it. When you go up to college, it’s pure to a sense, but those guys have their eyes on the NFL, and the end point is, I’ve got to get to the NFL.
“You get to the NFL, well, I’ve got to protect my family, I’ve got to pay for my family, so there’s a bunch of individuals in that locker room. So, every level, you lose a little bit of that team camaraderie, and in high school, it’s at its purest.”
Smith began his coaching career at Gateway and had great success, compiling a 101-30 record. He began his college coaching career at Temple in 2013, then joined the Penn State staff when James Franklin took over in 2014.
Smith admitted there are still things he misses about high school football.
“Friday nights, obviously it’s a different feel,” he said. “When you’re a high school coach, that community feel of community around you where you grew up and the kids and the families are all right there, yeah, I miss that. It’s a great family feeling.
“When you’re talking about the differences in connecting to college kids versus high school kids, the high school kids, the majority of your team in high school isn’t going to go play college football. The majority of those guys are playing because their buddy’s playing, because the community’s strong and it supports them for various amounts of reasons.”
The business part of football begins to take over in college.
“We’ve recruited these guys, they’re here to play football,” Smith said. “They’re going to go to school and be a student-athlete, but their main purpose is to come play football, even the walk-ons. So their full commitment is football. In high school, its just a little bit different.”
The country has a major void with no sports being played because of the coronavirus, and college football — whenever it can return — will play a major role in filling that void for so many communities around the country.
Smith, a receiver who played at Penn State from 1987-91, fully understands what the Lion football program means to so many people.
“We’re all dealing with some tough times and just a new way of life,” Smith said.
“Penn State football, we’re a major factor in our community,” he added. “We know that, and we take on that responsibility. Once we get back to being able to be on campus and football can move forward, we’re looking forward to contribute in the community where we can.
“There’s two things that bring communities together: It’s tragedy and it’s sports. And for our community, Penn State football is that bond. We’re going to love each other, we’re going to rally around our community, we’re going to rally around Penn State Nation and just try to receive all the love and give all the love and try to get our community back to thriving and happiness and get Happy Valley back to happy.”