LSU's Smith a Light and Witness in Tiger Locker Room - Word&Way

LSU’s Smith a Light and Witness in Tiger Locker Room

LSU backup offensive lineman Michael Smith
LSU backup offensive lineman Michael Smith

Football vs Texas A&M. Photo by Chris Parent

BATON ROUGE, La. (BP) — You probably won’t see LSU’s Michael Smith on the field in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship game against Clemson.

Smith, a backup offensive lineman for LSU, has only seen playing time in one game this year. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of his role on the team.

“Everybody on our team has a role, whether it’s Joe Burrow playing every single snap on offense or Michael Smith who contributes in a different way,” said Blake Ferguson, the LSU deep snapper. “That’s what makes this team so tight-knit is that everybody understands their role.

“With Michael, he has this sort of infectious energy,” Ferguson continued. “You won’t find a guy on the team who doesn’t appreciate him being around. Michael also has a mindset that he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. He’s going to go pick up trash in the locker room, if that’s what it takes. He’s going to go hold cards on the sideline for the personnel if he needs to. It doesn’t matter to him what the role is.”

For Smith, his humility in embracing his role on the team is rooted in his Christian faith. He grew up in a Christian household in Killeen, Texas, after his parents met each other and became believers while serving in the army in Korea. Smith made a profession of faith at age 13, was baptized at age 15 and has been walking with the Lord since then.

Michael Smith LSU head coach Ed Orgeron

Football vs Texas A&M. Photo by Chris Parent

“God has just placed me in the locker room to be a witness, and to be a light, and just to witness to my teammates and let them know what it looks like to be able to play football at this level and to serve Christ,” Smith said. “Even though I may not see a lot of playing time, I do understand the game very well and am able to communicate and help my teammates understand things.”

His dream ever since he was 2 years old, he said, was to play football for LSU. He made the team as a walk-on, and this year earned a scholarship for the first time. For him, football is a way to worship the Lord by using his God-given gifts and abilities.

“When we can perform to the best of our ability, we give glory to Him,” Smith said. “So, I take that mindset with me every day.”

At 6-foot-2, 325 pounds, Smith’s nickname of “Bus” is a fitting one, and it’s a term of endearment from a team and a community that delights in Smith’s warm personality.

“Bus has just been a faithful, faithful friend,” said Andy Stroup, the Baton Rouge area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “He has been a guy who is always there. He’s always smiling.”

One of the first things Stroup noticed about Smith was his knowledge of the Bible. At FCA meetings, one of the activities was Bible trivia, and Stroup said he couldn’t believe some of the answers that Smith knew as an 18-year-old.

Both of Smith’s parents taught Sunday school at his home church in Texas, so the Bible was part of his life. He also participated in “sword drill” at his church. His competitive nature helped fuel his desire to be the first one to find the verse that was called.

Stroup described Smith as a “thermostat” because he changes the temperature of a room when he walks in: “Super upbeat, super loving, a big teddy bear, for sure,” Stroup said.

Ferguson, a member of Christ Covenant Church, a Southern Baptist church plant in Smyrna, Ga., said Smith’s approach to the sport and his role with the team is characterized by selflessness and love for others.

“From the day that I met him, he was a very kindhearted person who was very easy to talk to,” Ferguson said. “You could just tell he was going to be a good teammate. I’ve been around a lot of different players, and he’s easily one of the top teammates that I’ve had…. He’s going to love those around him in the locker room with the love of Christ.”

An electrical engineering major, Smith knows that his football days are coming to an end. He has a year of eligibility left, and then he plans to move on with his life, with football relegated to fond memories. That’s why he’s exceedingly grateful to get a chance to be part of an LSU team that’s playing for a national championship, whatever his role may be.

“It’s the greatest blessing I could have ever asked for,” Smith said. “To see how this program has grown, and the trials and tribulations we’ve gone through, just to culminate it with this season has been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

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Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.