Ryan Smith: the enforcer on Chambers Academy’s dominant defense

Published 11:04 am Saturday, October 14, 2023

In Alabama, you do not become a legal adult until the age of 19. However, Chambers Academy already has a full-grown man leading its defensive line. 

Ryan Smith is just a senior in high school, but he could easily pass for a 25-year-old. It is something that Smith dealt with even as a kid. Smith and his mom had to carry his birth certificate around just to prove that he was in the right league. 

“I remember pee wee ball, back when I used to play in rec leagues and stuff, people would want to see my birth certificate,” Smith said. 

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Looking older is not the biggest key to Smith’s game, it is the strength that comes with it. Smith’s strength and speed on the defensive line have made it impossible for any offensive lineman to block him. 

Smith has led a defense that has allowed just under 10 points per game this season, and he has made Defensive Coordinator Dillon NeSmith’s job that much easier. 

“Everything starts inside out,” NeSmith said. “Him being a disruptive force inside really just kind of sets the tone for everything. It’s been a tremendous help. He’s been unblockable all year.” 

NeSmith believes that there is just one defensive lineman in the AISA who can even compete with Smith. Patrician’s Jay Lindsey is currently committed to playing tight end at Alabama, and he is one of the best defensive linemen in the state. 

NeSmith believes that Smith is right up there with Lindsey, and he would love nothing more than for Smith to prove that in the playoffs. 

“I’d like to see it, and we might get that opportunity to see it later on in the playoffs,” NeSmith said. “He wants to prove to everybody that he can go and play.” 

Beyond his statistical output, there is also an intimidation factor that Smith brings to each game. Seeing someone with his size and athleticism on the field immediately puts Chambers Academy’s opponents in a different mindset. 

“He’s a good-looking kid,” NeSmith said. “I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s big, strong and he’s fast.” 

Smith is intimidating in stature and in play style. In each game he goes into, Smith brings the attitude of making sure that he dominates the guy in front of him each play. 

“Destroy them,” Smith said about his mentality. “Let him know that he can’t do anything with me. Just do that all game.” 

As a senior, Smith has stepped up to become more of a leader this season. Smith now is the vocal leader of the defensive line and the entire defense. 

“He’s done a much better job this year of kind of stepping into that role,” NeSmith said. “Just being as disruptive as he is, automatically you’re going to have eyes on you from younger kids and stuff like that.” 

“I’m pretty vocal,” Smith said. “You usually don’t see defensive linemen or defensive ends out there talking. They’ll line up in trips, and I’ll start screaming trips, watch the counter and watch the quick pass.” 

Being able to call out formations and know the tendencies of the opposing offense does not come naturally. It is something that has taken dedication and long hours of film study. 

Now, Smith knows exactly what the offensive line he is facing is about to do, and he knows where every other member of the defense should be. 

“I watch a lot of film during the week,” Smith said. “If I had to say, I probably watch about 10 hours of film each week, maybe more. I sit there and I study each player, see what they’re good at, what they’re not good at and see what we can do against that player.” 

Smith has made a concerted effort to become more of a vocal leader on the team. Smith was a part of the team that brought the Rebels a state championship in 2020. 

While on that team, he played beside athletes like Brayden Moncus and Cross Colley. Smith strived to emulate what those guys did on the field and as vocal leaders. 

“That year we won state, I had a lot of guys that I grew up playing ball with,” Smith said. “They were all out there, they were vocal leaders. They made me want to start being like they were. I want to be better than they were because I know that’s probably what they’d want for me.” 

The goal for the Rebels each season is to win the state championship. Currently, on a six-game winning streak, the team looks primed to at least make a deep run in the playoffs. Smith believes that this team shows striking similarities to the 2020 state championship team. 

“I’d say we’re just like that team,” Smith said. “We came here, we worked hard all summer.” 

Smith plays a very similar role on both sides of the ball. On offense, he plays tight end and usually acts as the lead blocker for the Rebels’ ball carriers. On both sides of the ball, Smith wants each team that faces Chambers Academy to remember them for their toughness. 

“How nasty we were and how we got to the ball,” Smith said. “How we never stopped the whole game.” 

It is certain that every team has come away with memories from facing the Rebels this season, but those memories are likely ones they would like to forget.