Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week outside linebacker Daniel Smithwick '12 leads the football team in tackles and has played a pivotal role in Bruno's two shutouts this season. This past Saturday in the rain, the Bears blanked Penn 6-0, snapping the Quakers' 18-game Ivy win streak. Smithwick shut down Penn's offense with seven tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. His three interceptions now lead the Ivy League. For his staunch play all season, and his performance against two-time defending champion Penn, The Herald has named Smithwick Athlete of the Week.
The Herald: What is your proudest football achievement, either at the individual level or on a team level?
Smithwick: At each stage throughout my career — I've been playing ball since I was nine years old — I've just been lucky and blessed enough to be part of some great teams. I've been part of championship teams at every level, which has been awesome. It's been a great ride. It seems like at each stop, I'm just with an awesome group of guys, and that's what makes football so special. You're with your brothers out there, and you're with guys so much. … It's that camaraderie that makes it different from anything else, from any other sport. In my senior year of high school, we won our section championship, and we were the first team to win our league championship in our school's history, so we did knock those out. My freshman year (was) when we won the Ivy League. So that was an awesome two-year run, and we're just trying to recreate that, obviously, this year and just keep winning games. And we've had some awesome wins this year and definitely looking to keep it going. So it's been a fun senior year so far, but we're definitely not done.
You guys are off to a great season so far this year. What do you attribute that to?
I think it goes back to the camaraderie. We mesh so well together and our team is just really tight. We have some great senior leadership, with a lot of seniors playing key roles. We have a lot of guys who really didn't have a ton of experience before this year, a lot of guys who played a little bit coming up. But just the way with our program, a lot of the older guys usually have to step up and step into the roles, and it takes that time to develop, and it speaks to our program. Our coaches do an awesome job just getting us ready, and we're learning the techniques and the system. And I think having that leadership and having been through so much, we've started at the bottom, had to work our way up. We're clawing and chomping at the bit to get onto the field. And then, once we get out there, we're just fired up and just playing with each other out there. We know we can trust each other, which is huge.
What inspired you to start playing football?
When I was little, I was always dying to just play. And then finally my parents let me when I was nine years old. Actually, some of my buddies and their older brothers were playing. I went to some of their games, Pop Warner and stuff. Just seeing the guys out there, it's a physical game. I mean, it's fun. You run around, you can hit people, just scoring touchdowns and everything. It just looked like an awesome time. I was just mesmerized whenever I watched it on TV. I was hooked. I'm a huge 49ers fan, growing up. So, seeing guys like Steve Young, Jerry Rice, some of the greats play and just make incredible plays. And that was back when they were still a pretty solid team.
Are there any football players you try to emulate?
That's tough. It's kind of a combination. Growing up, I actually played quarterback until my senior year of high school, so I definitely looked at all the quarterbacks out there. I always thought with an offensive mentality. So I always thought kind of that big play-making aspect, trying to be a good athlete and a good leader and everything. But, transitioning to the defensive side, there's definitely some of the more physical guys, the Ray Lewises out there. Now, I guess there's guys like Clay Matthews that fly around, and they're always making plays both sides of the ball and stuff. … (Lewis') passion for the game is definitely one thing that stands out that I take a lot from. Guys like him, Brett Favre and Steve Young when he was playing. Kind of different positions, but still just their drive and really just the passion. … Their passion and athleticism is just awesome.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I like all kinds. It depends on the situation. "Remember the Titans" is a classic. It's one of my favorites — we watch that a lot, the guys on the team. "Remember the Titans," "Varsity Blues" — those are some good ones. "Step Brothers" is great, "Old School," "Gladiator" if you're trying to get a little more serious, a little more dramatic.
What was your Halloween costume this year?
Yeah, not huge on the Halloween costume this year. I didn't really get around to it. I was too busy thinking about trying to beat Penn, so …
What do you do to prepare before a game?
I try to be relaxed, but just being prepared throughout the week definitely helps with that relaxation. You don't have to be stressed too much. You know your jobs. You know your assignments. You're just ready to play. I'm more anxious than anything, before a game, just kind of itching to get out there and just get it going, just get it started. Because I hate that lull before the game. I hate that idle time. That's what drives me crazy. I wish I could just wake up and go play, but we have got to do the steps to get there. But I don't have anything too dramatic, like no chalk flying or anything like that, no jumping through hoops or anything.
Are your siblings also athletes?
My little brother is currently a sophomore in high school. He plays football and baseball as well. … He's probably my favorite player. It's been cool to see him grow up and go through a lot of the same stuff and just step back and watch him. It's kind of weird at some times — I feel like I'm watching myself again. But it's fun to watch him come up.