Tyson Smith makes presence felt in his return
MSU junior Tyson Smith was almost forced to hang up his cleats forever.
After a stroke in November, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound cornerback said he thought there was a 70 percent chance he would never step on the field again. But Smith defied the odds and came back to the green and white.
“The feeling when I just stepped on the field (on Saturday) was more than football,” Smith said. “It was a blessing to see that I’m still me. I felt normal. I didn’t know for sure if I was normal, but it’s just a blessing, that’s all.”
In his first game back from his stroke, Smith had an awe-inspiring outing.
With MSU up 28-3 in the third quarter of Saturday’s season opener, Bowling Green quarterback James Morgan was hoping to orchestrate a miraculous comeback.
Smith had other plans.
Smith, a native of Southfield, Michigan, intercepted Morgan’s pass and ran into the end zone for a 38-yard pick-6 to further cement a Spartan victory.
“The quarterback lifted his elbow my way; I knew it was coming,” Smith said. “So when the ball got there, it kind of smacked me in the face and I didn’t realize I caught it for a second. When I caught it … I looked to my right. My teammate David (Dowell) got my block and it was just on for it then — just looked back to make sure there were no flags on the play.”
In his first two seasons with the Spartans, Smith played in just 15 games, recording a total of 18 tackles.
When the stroke occurred, Smith, with the odds against his favor, remained optimistic but understood that his chances to come back were slim.
“I was still hopeful, still faithful to my teammates, my coaches,” he said. “Everybody was behind me, but I thought there was a low chance of me coming back.”
Saturday’s interception was Smith’s first since high school.
“Tyson plays a huge role in our defense than he has in the past, and we’re really excited to have him back on the field with us,” senior linebacker Chris Frey said. “He went through a really tough time, and he stuck with it. He could have very easily taken that injury and said, ‘You know what, I just want to focus on school and get my degree.’
“And he loves this game just like everyone of us does, and he did his best to get back out there on the field with us today, and he made a huge play and we’re really excited for him. And it’s really emotional for a guy like that to come up in a big game (and) make a big play.”
After getting cleared a month before the Spartans’ spring camp, Smith, who entered Saturday’s game listed as a second-string cornerback on the depth chart, said his primary goal was to just help his team to success.
The interception was the only stat Smith recorded Saturday, but it most definitely aided his team to a victory.
“Tyson has a huge pick in the game and it’s so good to see,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “Here’s a guy that was, I mean, basically ruled out and then sort of kept getting a little better and finally found people that said, ‘OK, you can play.’ So he really never got back with us until August, so he’s really starting to get back into rhythm. But he’s a good football player.”
As his teammates were filled with elation following the interception, Smith remained relatively calm, still shocked he recorded a touchdown. After it sank in, the excitement from his teammates spoke volumes to Smith.
“It meant everything in the world. … Those guys were behind me when I was out, so to see that they were behind me then during that time, it meant a lot,” he said. “And to see after (the interception) that it still meant a lot, it was an amazing feeling. It was exciting.”