“Winston!” Trent Smart exclaimed, his request targeted toward his pet Golden Retriever.
Wrapping up a late morning stroll in the park, Smart and Winston climbed into the car and headed home.
Smart, the 6-4, 260-pound senior defensive end on the Ohio University football team, would soon be back on the practice field as the Bobcats prepared for another football game.
Winston, likely, was getting ready for an afternoon nap.
And, by the way, despite Smart’s success in football at both Clinton-Massie and Ohio University, Winston is not named after a prominent athlete.
“Winston, after Winston Churchill,” said Smart. “I’m a big history guru. World War II is one I’ve read the most books on. I’ve always been interested in American history and the battles we had.”
Smart said Churchill “is like a genius to me. I’ve read a lot about the leaders of that time.”
A management information systems major, Smart enjoys reading and views history as a hobby. His take on the combination of the two is interesting.
“(Factual recounts of) history are always written by the winners,” he said. “I’ve always tried to read books that are more personal so I can see it from their perspective.”
Smart and his Bobcat teammates will face the University of Alabama-Birmingham in the Bahamas Bowl 12:30 p.m. Friday. The game will be televised on ESPN. Both teams are 8-4.
Smart helped lead Clinton-Massie to the OHSAA 2012 Div. IV state football championship. He was the Div. IV state defensive player of the year. Smart won the 2012 Clinton County Vince Lombardi Down Lineman of the Year Award.
Smart earned nine varsity letters at Clinton-Massie – four in basketball, three in football and two in baseball. He also had a 3.33 grade point average in the classroom.
For the Bobcats, Smart finished with 14 solos and 16 assisted tackles. Four of the tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, which included three sacks. He had a season-high four tackles against Buffalo, in OU’s final regular season game on Nov. 24.
Smart said choosing Ohio University over other Mid-American Conference schools, Purdue, Air Force Academy and the University of Kentucky was relatively easy.
“I basically knew some of the guys already in my recruiting class,” he said. “When I came to do my official visit at OU, they did us all together. There were 17 of us. We hit it off pretty good. I committed a week after my official visit. (Athens) still had that home town feel to it. It wasn’t a big city. It was one place I went and still felt like I fit in.”
Smart admits he’s grown up a lot in college.
“I don’t know what years you grow up most, but it definitely makes you put things in perspective,” he said. “College is definitely a unique experience. You grow as a person exponentially.”
Growth that includes when to speak out to a coach. After red-shirting his freshman season, Smart finally made his collegiate debut early in 2014.
“My first game, our second game against Kentucky, I wasn’t expecting to play,” Smart said. “It was still the first quarter and they (Wildcats) were driving in the red zone. I didn’t see anyone get hurt but then (defensive line) coach (Jesse) Williams yelled my name to go in. I shook a little bit. I said, ‘Are you sure, coach?” He yelled at me for saying that.”
Smart’s OU career has been hampered by injuries. Some he’s played through, even though he was less than 100 percent.
Last season, Smart missed the Bobcats bowl game against Troy because of an injury.
“Last year, the coaches and I came to a decision to sit out the bowl game to get surgery on my knee and be ready for the (2017) season,” said Smart. “It was tough not to travel with the guys but it was better for this year.”
However, having surgery on his knee in December 2016 seemed a bit risky to be so confident about playing in 2017.
“That was a big issue for me,” Smart admitted. “I was skeptical the entire time. I just listened to the trainers and the doctors. If I could get eight months that would be a full recovery … the knee would be fully healed it would be sufficient to play.”
The knee injury was a bit bizarre, considering doctors told Smart the knee had been torn “years ago” and other ligaments were already compensating for the ACL, Smart said.
Smart started the season at defensive end for OU, but was admittedly concerned the first time he saw game action.
“The thought of my knee was lingering in the back of my mind,” he said. “Once I got that first game out of the way and everything went smoothly, I knew I didn’t need to worry about it anymore.
“At this point in the season, my knee feels 100 times better than it felt last year. This is the best physical condition I’ve been in since I’ve been in college.”
After a stellar career at the high school and college levels, Smart said the Bahamas Bowl will almost certainly be his final competitive football game.
“I’ve already set up and put plans into motion for life after football,” said Smart. “If something were to come along, if I had a massive breakout, I still don’t know if I’d do it (play professionally). The aches and pains or waking up each morning … I just don’t know if it would be worth it. I have buddies that play in the (National Football) League and they tell me to cherish the game at the college level. It’s a business. That aspect of it makes the whole professional level intimidating. It puts you on eggshells because you don’t know if you’ll have a job tomorrow.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports