CJ Smith

More Than Helmets and Jerseys

CJ Smith
CJ Smith celebrates after scoring a touchdown for the Bison.

My favorite part about being a sports writer at The Spectrum is the interviews.

When I think about it, I really contradict myself because I actually often dread them.

I got nervous talking to 6-foot-8 North Dakota State men’s basketball player Dylan Miller, or football special teams coach Atif Austin, who has so much knowledge. The job can be intimidating.

But walking into the NDSU team meeting room Saturday after the dominating 37-6 win against the University of Montana in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, I had the biggest kid-in-a-candy-store smile on my face.

No matter how big of a fan you think you are of the Packers, the Vikings or the Bison, it’s the reporters that are lucky enough to see the real side of the athletes who we enjoy watching so much.

Post-game press conferences always start with head coach Chris Klieman recapping the game and then opening up the floor for questions.

“Well that was a great dominating performance. Hats off to our players and coaches, what a phenomenal job of game planning and preparing our coaches did to get our guys ready to play,” Klieman said after the game.

Klieman is a diamond in the rough; I’ve never seen him disgruntled in an interview, and he is always lightning-fast to give credit to everyone else.

Even in the interview after the Montana loss 100 days ago, all he said was, “Disappointing loss on Saturday; we had plenty of opportunities to come out with a win and we didn’t, but give Montana credit, I thought they played an exceptional second half.”

After Klieman finished up, NDSU defensive tackle Brian Schaetz and cornerback C.J. Smith took questions.

Smith said that the crowd was “unbelievable” and Schaetz said, “The noise definitely screwed up their offensive-line,” then he joked, “Heck it was screwing around with me a little bit.”

What made me laugh were Smith’s comments about Bruce Anderson’s 100-yard kick return.

I wasn’t laughing at him, I was laughing because Smith is a defensive leader, a rock in the secondary, and he said, “Just looking at the guys, man, their emotions were just so cheerful.”

Smith said cheerful. I never expected that.

The other two players interviewing on behalf of the Bison were redshirt freshman quarterback Easton Stick and freshman running back Bruce Anderson.

Both are freshmen — a tribute to their worth ethic and the overall strength of the program. BisoNation has these guys for three more years.

Stick surprised me by being a well-spoken individual. Stick’s vocabulary is expansive and never repetitive. He spoke with clarity and never stumbled on questions; for a second I forgot he had just turned 20.

Like Klieman, Stick was quick to give all the credit to someone else: the offensive line.

“The offensive line did a really good job of opening it up,” Stick said about what happened on his 49-yard touchdown run. “When they block it that well, you have to follow them.”

“And try not to get tackled,” he added.

Anderson gave the best interview of them all, with his exact description of the kick return for a touchdown. Taking the ball 100-yards to the house ties the FCS post-season record for longest kickoff return.

“First I had to catch the ball,” Anderson explained. “Then I looked in front of me and saw my blockers had everything squared away, so I just had to hit the hole full speed. I saw a guy to my right so I cut left. Saw the kicker one-on-one and can’t let him tackle me. So, I had to run right past him.”

All in all, I left the interview feeling complimentary of the Bison players and Klieman.

Hopefully, after Saturday’s game against University of Northern Iowa, NDSU coaches and players will be just as cheerful.

Leave a Reply