They’ve been teammates for what seems like forever.
From struggling squads at Davis High to careers on the emerging Aggie gridiron frontier, seniors Dwight Smith and Josh Reese look like they’ll be ready for whatever life after football presents them.
“Wow. That’s a big question,” receiver Smith says after somebody asked him what he’s taken away from four years at UC Davis.
Knowing his opportunities have been limited by injuries, the 6-foot-3 wideout gave a calculated answer:
“I’ve (learned) responsibility. Understanding the importance of teamwork, fighting against adversity – overcoming adversity,” explains Smith, not even a year removed from his most recent knee injury. “Being part of the great tradition here has been probably been the highlight for me.”
Reese, though banged up frequently the past two years, has weathered the storm (749 rushing yards, five touchdowns and almost 300 yards receiving). Fans should consider those lofty statistics, given that the Aggies ranked near the bottom of their conference in rushing each of the past three seasons.
Reese, who expects to have a career in law enforcement, sees his last of five years at UCD as a big opportunity for him and his Aggies:
“My goal this year is to be part of team that goes to the playoff level. If this is going to be my last year (as a football player), I want us to take it all the way. I really believe we can.”
Reese, who rushed for 1,151 yards while scoring 15 TDs on mediocre 4-6 Blue Devil squad in 2007, was hard-pressed to see daylight at UCD these past two seasons.
With former NFL lineman Brad Bedell taking over the Aggies’ offensive line and running game, UCD head coach Bob Biggs sees Reese getting the opportunity to shine this fall.
“Where Josh is most effective is running the ball inside,” reports Biggs, who is in 19th season at the Aggie helm. “Josh isn’t as quick as some of the new guys, but he’s strong and very good in the passing game, especially on protection and check-downs.”
Biggs sees mixing junior Marquis Nicolis with redshirt freshmen Austin Edmonson, Colton Silveria and Jonathan Maricic and Reese as a positive: “Josh is going to play. No question. He just won’t have to carry the ball 15 times a game — we now have other guys to do that — so Josh will be fresher … his body will be fresher. It’s all good news.”
Knowing Smith lost time last year due to injury — and not having seen a whole lot of the community-development major’s moves during games — Biggs is nonetheless impressed with what his hometown product brings to the Aggies.
“Dwight’s strength is that he’s a tremendous mentor for our younger players,” Biggs says. “Dwight is the prototypical UCD player … that is so unselfish. His playing time may or may not be limited based on how he proceeds.
“But more importantly, he is willing to help young players who might be more skilled or more experienced playing than he is … yet he helps them get better. His leadership and mentorship is invaluable.”
Biggs has always believed “one can’t measure the role of a player on a football team by how many catches he has, or tackles he’s made. There are so many other things.”
Biggs says he told Smith on Thursday, “It’s the unselfishness. Coaches can’t see everything, the willingness to teach each other … Dwight epitomized that for us.”
Reese, one of four Aggie captains this fall, joins Smith in believing UCD’s season-opener against Pac-12 foe Arizona State (on the road Sept. 1) is an exciting challenge.
“If anything, I like coming in as an underdog,” Reese offers, smiling, while Smith nods in agreement. “Then you get the element of surprise. Pressure is on them to come through and be who they are. I just want us to leave everything on the field … be mentally smart.”
Smith, who was told that one Las Vegas betting line put the Sun Devils as a 31-point favorite, waved aside the oddsmakers:
“The first thing is to not worry about any opening line,” he says. “Just make sure our game is on point. Play the perfect game, execute on offense and be ready on defense for whatever they bring.
“Then put all the pressure on them … to mess up. We’re going to be ready. We’ll see happens.”
Notes: Smith already works in the Early Academic Outreach Program. His community development major has an emphasis in education, and being involved with the EAOP allows Smith to help underserved schools and communities with counseling and program assistance. … Reese (6-0, 196) hopes the success of his individual game parallels a successful team season. He admits, given the chance, he’d like to play football after college: “I’ve thought about it. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll take it as far as I can. CFL, Arena, overseas. I’d definitely like to play somewhere.” … Longtime friends Smith and Reese are entertained when teammates tease them about being from UCD’s own back yard: “They’re just mesmerized by it … that we’re Davis High guys,” laughs Reese, who says the pair have each other’s back when the funnin’ starts.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047.