For the Morning Star
Being able to finally play in a football game is something Zack Smith and the University of Calgary Dinos are elated about.
The 20-year-old product of Vernon Secondary School admitted the wait was frustrating but he never was discouraged.
It has been a lengthy journey for the 2019 British Columbia High School 2A Player of the Year to get into game action.
After a stellar career with the Panthers that saw him win a pair of British Columbia 2A Championships in 2018 and 2019, Smith – like all other U Sports players– had the 2020 season taken away due to COVID restrictions.
The abbreviated six-game 2021 Canada West Conference season was also lost. Smith had a severe groin injury forcing the Haskayne School of Business student to miss the bulk of his freshman season that limited his playing time to one game and one play.
The 2022 season did not start smoothly either.
Smith missed the pre-season Kal Tire Kalamalka Bowl game in his hometown at Greater Vernon Athletic Park, featuring the Dinos taking on the UBC Thunderbirds, due to a broken finger.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Smith made his first road trip with the Dinos in Week 2 when they played the University of Regina, playing receiver as well as special teams.
A week later Smith had a breakout game against the University of Alberta Golden Bears catching eight passes for 111 yards including an 11-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Daniel Sananes. That performance earned him the team’s Offensive Player of the Game recognition.
But just when Smith thought he was healthy, bad luck struck again.
Smith was listed as doubtful for Friday’s game against the UBC Thunderbirds due to illness, did not practice but suited up and played in the game, a 39-29 loss to the T-Birds.
When he’s in the lineup, Smith gives the Dinos’ offence a lethal weapon.
“Zack is a former quarterback turned receiver and has a great feel for the game. He is a dynamic athlete and with unlimited potential,” said U of C offensive coordinator Jabari Arthur.
Smith is one of five Panthers on the Dinos. Senior defensive lineman Josh Hyer is one of just a few remaining starters from the 2019 Vanier Cup championship team. Linebacker Liam Reid, one of the team’s leading tacklers, and offensive lineman Brady Szeman are starters at linebacker and offensive centre, respectively, and Roan Reid is a freshman receiver.
The Dinos are off to an 0-5 start in Canada West Conference play.
Jack Neumann is a former sports information director for the University of Calgary