Spring practices are underway for the NIU Huskies and linebacker Sutton Smith is already primed for another monster season.
He’s only going to be entering his junior season this fall, but Smith already ranks as one of the all-time great players in NIU history based on what he did as a sophomore. He led the nation in tackles for loss. He had 14 sacks to tie for the national lead, and his 87 quarterback pressures led the nation by a whopping margin of 25.
“I don’t know how you’re going to have numbers like that (again),” says NIU head coach Rod Carey. “I mean those numbers were outrageous!”
Smith was the MAC’s Defensive Player of the Year and he was a consensus All-American. He was named first or second team by all five major groups that pick All-America squads.
A year ago at this time Smith wasn’t on anybody’s radar. This year he is absolutely on everybody’s radar as the main man to watch out for on this NIU team, and he says he’s fine with that.”
“I’m very comfortable with it because I know my type of play it won’t fail. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Smith is determined to build off of last season. He got bigger and strong over the winter.
“I’m roughly around 230 (pounds) and coaches have said, I mean I feel even more explosive than what I was. The coaches have seen that and they’ve told me that.”
“Sutton has attacked this thing the exact way you want to see someone attack it,” says Carey. “I think he’s six to nine pounds heavier than he was coming out of the season last year. I think he set PRs in all three major lifts squat, clean and bench.”
Offensive tackle Max Scharping faces Smith in practice so he knows what a nightmare Smith can be trying to block.
“He’s really fast so it’s hard to get your hands on him, and secondly he’s just relentless,” says Scharping. “Even if you get your hands on him by some luck then he’s not going to stop.”
Through all of the accolades and the praise Smith tries to stay grounded by simply focusing on the game of football.
“I try not to let anything get bigger than life. That’s really the only thing that matters is getting my guys right and having fun with them and being the best teammate I can be.”
Smith actually was a running back when he first got to NIU two years ago. The coaching staff saw his tenacity and decided he was better suited on defense.