Dalton Smith has wasted no time making his mark on the national ultimate scene. Devout followers of the game will surely look back on 2012 as the announcement party for his young career. It was already more than a considerable success after coming within just one win from the College Championships with Texas A&M Dozen and being named South Central 1st Team Freshman of the Year. Just five months later he concluded his extended rookie campaign by wining the Club Championships as a member of Austin Doublewide.
Despite his youth, Smith was by no means confined to a reserve role with sporadic play. There’s no such thing as the pine pony for this kid. He proved himself worthy of the big stage and his elite peers numerous times with highlight D after highlight D throughout championship weekend.
Now we’ve all officially been put on notice. Smith is capable of striking at any given moment. In fact we expect it. But a different side of him was also on display when Dozen made their season debut at Big D in little d in late-January: the ability to make the impact that highlight clips don’t necessarily reveal.
If ultimate is a business, Smith is a key cog in the corporate machine. That’s not to take away from his individual impact but to emphasize his team’s overall firepower. Similar to his club situation, he’s surrounded by teammates who are playmakers in their own right. Yet, even when not creating the catalyst play, he’s seemingly always there making the play that causes it. In the world of sports where we harp on the details, he is the detail.
Dozen was flushed with Callahans that weekend. One of which was the product of an awe-striking layout by Smith that either tipped the disc or in the least forced the thrower to make an ill-advised throw, that lingered in the wind and landed right into his teammate’s bread basket (By the way, the layout came directly after a full-field sprint following the pull. No deceleration. Just a raging charge and lift off.)
In a suffocating zone defense, it’s Smith’s workhorse play at the “around” position in a 3-man cup that shuts down any chance of an up field throw on the open side. The effectiveness of swings is completely diminished by his side-to-side hustle, allowing the break side wing to creep up and force the eventual turnover.
Smith naturally blends through his demeanor as well. No matter the game’s circumstance he carries himself in a very even keel manner, always frugal with his energy. On the sidelines one could easily mistake him for just another college player, never bringing attention to himself. Just one of the fellows. He operates very much in contrast to teammate and fellow 1st team All-Region member Matt Bennett, who I’m convinced, has a future in game commentary. (At one point I’m fairly certain I heard Bennett commend a teammate by saying, “That’s hot! That’s Easy Bake Oven hot!”)
In our brief conversation following Dozen’s win in the final, I got a feel for Dalton Smith the teammate. I posed questions concerning his individual play and received responses that showed his team-first mindset. He’s reached the pinnacle with the likes of Brodie Smith, Kurt Gibson, Kevin Richardson and company, but it’s not enough. All of those club experiences are tools to get his college team over that final hump, to clinch that elusive nationals birth. And in the process, take down rival TUFF (University of Texas).
For all his humble nature I like to think there’s a corner of his conscious where Smith basks in his own success and skill. Certainly there are times when he trots off the field after a big play internally saying, “Damn you’re good, Dalton.” And for those subtle plays, something along the lines of “That was all you, Dalton.” But he may never admit it himself.
Above everything else, that’s why Dalton Smith – to the displeasure of my alma mater – has won a fan in me. He takes his place on the field and simply handles his business. Once it’s all said and done he walks off as if he didn’t just impose his will on the game. This grueling competition that batters our bodies so? It’s just something he does. To channel the great Muhammad Ali, grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. Dalton Smith plays ultimate.
Just another day at the office.
Feature photo by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com. Full 2012 Club Championships Photo Set.