As a sophomore in high school, Yale wide receiver Chris Smith ’13 was a mere 130 pounds, a measly 5-feet-5-inches tall and bench pressed just 130 pounds. Disappointed that he had not made varsity football that year, Smith was determined to make it with the best athletes in his town, Midlothian, Va., where, he said, football is everything.
“I was always a smaller dude [growing up], but a pretty good athlete, so I got by,” Smith said.
After countless tubs of protein powder and workouts, Smith now weighs in at 200 pounds and has increased his bench by nearly three times since his sophomore year of high school to 350 pounds. He has also quickly made his mark on the Yale football team and is the active career leader in catches, 64, and receiving yards, 685. Teammate and friend Cameron Sandquist ’14 said Smith’s ability to bench 15 reps at 275 pounds makes Smith the strongest per pound player on the team.
Yet there is more to Smith, a.k.a. Sick Smith, Randi, or Smitty, as his teammates sometimes refer to him, than sheer strength. In fact, Smith is a self-described Southern gentleman whose sense of hospitality includes always saying hi and holding doors for girls. Teammate Josh Grizzard ’12 said Smith is an unusually easy-going guy.
“Most guys on the team are either in DKE or Zeta … but Chris fits in with a lot of different people,” Grizzard said. “He doesn’t want to separate himself from any part of the team.”
Smith said his love for football, like his mannerisms, derived from his Southern hometown of Midlothian, where football players are considered local heroes. When Smith played at Clover Hill High School, he said the rivalry games were always packed, and people would “go crazy” supporting the team.
He added that the atmosphere was much different from the one he has experienced as a player at Yale and wishes that more Yale students would support the Bulldogs.
“You look up at the stands and there are hardly any students at the game,” Smith said. “Here, the few people that do go pretty much only go for the tailgate and then bounce. It’d be a way sweeter atmosphere if the student body were going crazy. I think if we knew we had everyone there, cheering, supporting and stuff, we’d play better.”
Smith, a political science major, has performed well since his first days as a freshman. Hew said it was his goal the summer before freshman year to start as a freshman, and he did as wide receiver — and kick and punt returner. He ended his freshman season with 18 catches for 233 yards and one touchdown.
Even so, receivers coach and offensive co-coordinator Kefense Hynson said Smith has improved remarkably since his arrival at Yale.
“When he first got here, he was just kind of playing football and running fast, but he didn’t know what he was doing from a technical standpoint,” Hynson said. “He always had the physical ability but didn’t know how to win with technique. Now he’s better physically and technically than most guys.”
Football captain Jordan Haynes ’12 added that Smith always puts in the extra effort — in the weight room, watching film, and in practice — and that effort shows up on the field.
But according to Grizzard, Smith knows how to leave his intensity on the field.
“He takes what he does seriously,” Grizzard said. “But I will say he takes himself a little less seriously on a Saturday night than he does on a Tuesday morning … he definitely knows how to have a good time.”
With his commitment to football, academics, and working jobs at Payne Whitney Gym and Sterling Memorial Library, Smith said he still finds time to spend with his friends.
“I feel like most Yale kids get really caught up in their sport and especially academics and stuff,” Smith said. “I definitely value that time I get to spend with my close friends.”
In terms of after Yale ambitions, Sandquist said Smith has a legitimate chance of playing in the NFL. He will start this Saturday when the Bulldogs face Georgetown at the Yale Bowl.