Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick Smothers. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, July 27, 2013 4:49 PM
Everybody has one that got away.
In the case of every Louisiana school in the Southland Conference, that one is Wynrick Smothers.
Many have wondered how the Destrehan native ended up at Central Arkansas, where he threw for 3,101 yards and 31 touchdowns in his junior season to be named the Southland offensive player of the year.
The answer is pretty simple — you can’t have what you don’t pursue.
Though it seems crazy in hindsight, Smothers says Southeastern Louisiana was the only program in the state to offer him at quarterback. Everyone else offered a scholarship at the more ambiguous position of “athlete.”
Smothers said it’s no knock on the talent-judging ability of the coaches who scouted him.
“I only played one year of varsity,” Smothers said. “You can’t really blame anyone for passing on me.”
Though he understands why he was passed over, that doesn’t mean Smothers doesn’t use it as a motivator.
“You use anything you can as a motivator,” he said. “All of them passed on me. I guess they just didn’t like what they saw, so I ended up at UCA.”
Smothers laughs when talking about this, knowing full well that it’s a somewhat false fuel. But he’s not arguing with the results — he has yet to lose to a Louisiana school in his first four tries.
UCA coach Clint Conque, a south Louisiana native himself, said Smothers has grown dramatically from the raw prospect who arrived in Conway, Ark., and redshirted as a freshman in 2009.
“There’s probably a few people in Louisiana kicking themselves for not recruiting him as a quarterback,” Conque said. “We saw a skill set in him that had an upside as a quarterback coming out of his senior year at Destrehan. The credit goes to Wynrick for how hard he has worked to enhance those skills. He’s been very patient. He’s worked very hard. And he has a lot of poise. Those are very important ingredients in a signal caller.”
Smothers’ slow rise to stardom probably pays dividends in the form of his late-game ability to make the improbable happen. Just as he never gave up in his road to becoming a college starter, he doesn’t when the chips are down for the Bears.
Smothers led UCA to two touchdowns in the final 3:18 for a stunning 24-20 win over No. 3 Sam Houston State last season. Unfortunately for McNeese fans, it was not the only time he’d pull that rabbit out of his hat.
Smothers led the Bears to the most improbable of wins at Cowboy Stadium on Oct. 13 as UCA scored twice in the final 1:10 for the 27-26 win. Smothers kept the game alive with a first-down scramble on fourth-and-10, then hit Dezmin Lewis in double coverage for a 19-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 26-24 before his teammates recovered an onside kick that set up the game-winning field goal.
Smothers admits he’s still a bit stunned by how UCA left Lake Charles with a win.
“We definitely had a little luck on our side, there’s no doubt about it,” Smothers said. “But we just fought to the end. We’re one of those teams that never give up. The game is never over until there’s four zeroes on the scoreboard. I keep telling my teammates that on the sidelines. That’s what we did both times (against Sam and McNeese).”
As improbable as his rise has been, the scary thing for opponents is Smothers’ determination to do even better this year.
“I’ve been focusing on my mistakes,” he said. “Last year may seem like a great season to everybody else, but I mean I could have easily threw five or six more touchdowns if I made the completions. That’s the type of things I want to get better at this season. Getting those balls in the right spot.”
Smothers’ determination makes one thing a certainty.
This year, no one in the Southland will be ignoring the one that got away.