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August 14, 2012

Smith brings underdog attitude

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Texas Tech linebacker Will Smith will never be the world's most well known person with that name, but he has all the tools needed to succeed on the South Plains and make a name for himself within the Big 12 footprint.

Smith, an academic qualifier out of high school who spent the last two seasons first at Division II Northwood (Mich.) and finally at Riverside (Calif.) Community College, joined the Red Raiders as an outside linebacker but soon proved himself to be too valuable to take off the field. Early on during spring practice, he was moved to middle linebacker. That's a big deal considering Smith did not receive any Division I offers coming out of high school.

"I think part of it is I went to a small high school," Smith said. "(Division I schools) were unsure about it. I had interest and then UCLA backed out, Fresno State backed out, some big schools backed out and didn't want to take that chance. But I'm sure they've seen what I've become and are frustrated with themselves."

Tech welcomed Smith with open arms and the 6-foot-3, 224-pounder impressed the coaching staff by being a solid tackler and capable quarterback of the team's defensive.

Smith owes a lot to his twin brother, Wade. The two roughhoused together growing up -- as most brothers do -- and then became standout football players together. Wade, a defensive tackle, even followed his brother to Northwood, but redshirted in 2010 and opted to transfer following the 2011 season.

"He actually just left the same school I left to do the junior college thing like I did," Will Smith said. "I thought it was worth the risk. Get out of Division II, play a season at junior college and then have two years to play Division I. There's a chance Tech could get him. If he has a good season I'm sure Tech will look at him. Hopefully he would want to come out here with me.

"We were competitive at a young age. We learned how to compete by going against each other. We both wanted to be the best and we were together all the time to compete. In a household of that and playing with my dad and my uncle I got that competitive edge."

So Smith brought that edge he has to Tech. He has had a dramatic rise since signing with the Red Raiders last December, but Smith was always confident in his abilities.

"I always felt like I could come in and make an impact right away," he said. "It's pretty surreal being here and living in the moment, but it's fun. I'm having a good experience here.

"I like the fact -- I feel like we're underrated and that's going to let us surprise some people. I've always felt like I've had that underrated tension so it's nothing big to me. I'm just setting out to play and win."

Smith is joining a whole unit of players who should have an underdog attitude. No one is going to respect the Tech defense within the Big 12 Conference to start the season because it was one of the worst Division I defenses in the country a year ago.

"I feel like we are for sure not going to be one of the worst defenses in the NCAA," he said. "That's for sure. That's not going to happen. I think we can be one of the better defenses in the Big 12."

A lot of the success Tech has this season will be dependent on Smith. Again, he's a hard hitter and a sure tackler but he also is in charge of getting four defensive linemen and one or two other linebackers in the right position depending on what the scheme calls for.

"I know the defense pretty well now," Will Smith said. "It was tough in the spring and I had to adjust quickly. Now it's slowing down a little more and I can make more plays. It's coming together and I can help us change the game. I'm hoping to make over 10 tackles in the first game, but more importantly I just want to help the team however I can.

"We're underrated, I've been underrated, but I think they'll respect us soon."

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