Sports

Smith makes history, earns All-American honors

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Corey Smith had a historic season on the Montana State University football team. And, as a reward, the 1999 Decatur graduate has gone down in Bobcat history.

Smith, Montana State’s kick and punt return specialist, earned first team NCAA Division I-AA All-American honors from The Sports Network and the American Football Coaches Association — becoming Montana State’s first consensus pick since punter Matthew Peot in 1999.

“Corey was the most debonair return man in the country this year, and certainly extends a long tradition of great, great returners at this school,” said MSU coach Mike Kramer.

Smith (5-foot-10, 168 pounds) returned four punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns this year and holds the MSU and Big Sky Conference records for punts and kickoffs returned for touchdowns in a single season and a career. He is also the only player in Montana State history to return two punts and a punt and kickoff for TDs in the same game.

Montana State finished the season as the Big Sky champions with a 6-5 overall record and a 4-2 conference mark. The Bobcats lost in the first round of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs to Northern Iowa late last month, 35-14.

Smith also started as a wide receiver for Montana State, racking up 32 catches for 433 yards and one touchdown. But he made his mark returning punts and kicks.

“I’m out there not really thinking a whole lot when I catch the ball,” Smith said in an MSUBobcats.com interview. “I’m just catching it first, then running and going on what I see. I used to like punt returns better than kick returns, but this year I’m starting to understand kick returns a little better.”

Kramer said the two are related, but require slightly different skills.

“In kickoff returns you absolutely have to go where you are supposed to go,” he said. “If you don’t, you get smacked. Corey is really better at kickoffs than punts. Punts you can be a little improvisational, but on kickoffs you must go where you are required to go.”

Smith’s biggest touchdown return of the year came in the Bobcats’ rivalry game against the University of Montana Nov. 22.

Smith returned the opening kickoff 90 yards to help MSU to a 27-20 victory and a share of the Big Sky title.

Following the game, he was named The Sports Network Division I-AA Special Teams Player of the Week, as well as Big Sky player of the week. It was his second national player of the week honor this season.

On the year, Smith returned 35 punts for 545 yards and four touchdowns and 15 kickoffs for 490 yards and two touchdowns.

“After I beat the first person, I know I have a chance for a big one,” Smith said. “If I can make the first person miss, there’s always a chance I can go all the way for a touchdown.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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