After 11 seasons, six Grey Cup appearances and on the hunt for a third ring this Sunday, all of a sudden Brandon Smith has become the Stampeders grey beard.
The only player left on the roster from the 2008 Grey Cup championship that began the John Hufnagel era in Calgary, Smith is not often seen giving interviews or caught making the flamboyant gestures sometimes displayed by players at his position.
“When you are always on camera, (people) think you are doing your job and making plays, but the cameras only stay on you if you give them something to see,” Smith said. “If you make a play and you get up and run back to the huddle and slap a couple high fives, it’s no big deal.”
And as for his reluctance to embrace the spotlight, Smith acknowledges that he tends to steer clear of the media.
“I like to fly under the radar,” he said. “I know exactly how it works; if you’re doing good, they love you. If you’re doing bad, you’re the worst player ever.”
Smith had another consistent season in Calgary, where he secured 56 tackles to go along with three interceptions and a sack. Around the Calgary locker room, you won’t find anyone who believes that Smith gets his due. Former Stampeder Keon Raymond is in town for the Grey Cup and said Smith is often the target of light-natured ribbing for his relative silence.
However, Smith intimated that he prefers being the strong, silent type.
“You can go out and say you’re the best DB all you want, but if you aren’t out there showing it that’s one thing. But if you can go out there and not say anything and just make plays and people can acknowledge that and recognize that, it’s more of a respect thing that I’d rather have,” Smith said.
Smith does know he has a responsibility this week when it comes to those players who may be making their first Grey Cup appearance.
“Got to constantly remind them don’t let the event get bigger than the game. It’s still a 60-minute game, still have to go out there. It’s the last game of the year and you want to leave with the good impression that you did everything you possibly can to come away with the victory,” Smith said.
After playing for so many championships and having both won and lost, Smith is able to keep things in perspective.
“Just go out there and play like you’ve normally been doing. It’s only the biggest game because it’s the next game. That’s something we constantly stress,” Smith said, “the next game is always the biggest game. There is no next week because we only think about this week.”
Despite the offseason departures of Shaquille Richardson to the NFL, Tommie Campbell to the Alouettes, and the retirement of Joshua Bell who took over as DB coach, the Stampeders backfield allowed a league-low 7.2 yards per completion in 2018 and had the fewest completions for 20 plus yards.
Throughout his 11 seasons, Smith has remained the steadying influence, consistently performing at a high level no matter how few people are paying attention.
“I’m appreciated by my team, my coaching staff, and my fellow teammates, and that’s all that matters,” Smith said,
Come Sunday he may be getting fitted for his third championship, no matter how silent he stays, that in itself will speak volumes.