On the field or on the chessboard, Smith focuses on improvement – Notre Dame vs. Fighting Irish – Official Site of Athletics | So Good News


By John Brice
Special contributor

When Chris Smith finishes classes that include football and his 17-hour, graduate-student commitments on campus at Notre Dame, he descends on his apartment for one or two, often both, entertainment options.

Study the Irish’s own games and practices or video of his opponents, or launch the app on Smith’s phone.

Play chess.

“I like to play chess,” said Smith, a defensive tackle from Notre Dame who was drafted by Harvard. “I usually play chess every week, usually every other day; I’m on a chess app and play random players. It was great.

“I’ve been playing chess since high school or elementary school. I’m not that good, but I think big tactics in terms of soccer and just a simple strategy of soccer helps. It is important. I think there’s a lot that goes into it for me as a D-lineman, but there’s definitely a connection there. I think sometimes that makes it a little easier to absorb what we’re trying to defend against the onslaught of resistance.

Smith’s latest net maneuver is an increased role on defense for the Irish, who host cross-town rival Stanford on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium (7:30 p.m., NBC).

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Site

“It’s never easy for guys to transfer,” Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden said. “They’re learning all new techniques and new nomenclature. I really feel like it’s settling in now. So I’m really excited about the direction it’s going. It has a really strong interior.

“He’s a big, physical presence. He can anchor and it takes two (offensive linemen) to get him off the ball a lot. Him, Gabe (Rubio), Jason (Ademilola) … hopefully we’ll get Howard (Cross) back and have a nice rotation there. But Chris does whatever we ask of him. It’s an amazing quality and he’s trying to do the technique perfectly.”

During his decorated career at Harvard, which included All-Ivy League honors in 2021, Smith showed enough in his game video to catch the attention of Notre Dame’s coaching staff, where he was selected as a graduate student during his final season of college. football.

Starting in all five games and winning seven tackles, Smith’s delivery since arriving at Notre Dame earlier this year — his first time on the hallowed campus — answered even more questions from coach Marcus Freeman.

“You still had questions, didn’t you? The competition from Harvard to Notre Dame is a little different,” Freeman said. “Can he do it at this level? He knew from the day he got here that Chris Smith could play the level of football we needed to play at Notre Dame. He’s doing a really good job because he’s got more opportunities because of the practice.

“Now you see him playing at a high level in games. He played more in this last game against BYU than he ever had before. He’s going to play more because he’s doing a great job with the opportunities.”

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Site

Notre Dame’s third straight win in last week’s 28-20 win over BYU marked Smith’s first career start for the Irish. The 6-foot-1-3/8-inch, 310-pound Smith earned that right on the practice field, of course; he also embraced his bond with defensive line coach Al Washington away from campus.

“Coach Wash, he sends me videos and texts about things he wants to work on, and that’s been huge,” said Smith, a Detroit native who is now preparing to play at one of college football’s most elite schools from Harvard. and an athletic rivalry with the Notre Dame-Stanford matchup on deck.

“Watching movies every night at home, of course. It was great and made sure I was reading the book. Sometimes a lot of calls and games go by. It might not be that big of a difference, but we’re going up against a new offensive line and new offensive linemen and players every week. I just know who I’m up against.”

Along with making sure he knows who he’s up against, Smith also knows who he has in his corner; namely his mother, Sabrina Hicks.

After neither mother nor son attended Notre Dame before transferring to the Irish, she became a starter in all of Smith’s games — and never missed a home day, allowing 733 rushing yards while her son anchored the Irish defensive front. yards through five plays.

“My mom comes to almost every game, and I usually have a different group every week, whether it’s aunts or family friends,” Smith said of his lively support crew. “It was good to have such support.

“I was definitely familiar with Notre Dame growing up; in fact, when I was in middle school or high school, I think it was one of my best schools. I was looking at Notre Dame and I wanted to camp and somehow I didn’t. Obviously, we know Notre Dame very well and now we’re here.

Indeed, Smith’s Irish chances are half way.


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