I was never an athlete — I think most sports writers would admit to that — but unlike most others of my kind, I also wasn’t always the biggest sports fan.In reality, when I was very young, I just wanted to be a writer. Probably write some books. You know, try to make a living with words, somehow.There’s no reason I should want to be a writer — no one person in particular inspired me to start doing this and there’s obviously not a whole bunch of money to be made.Actually, let’s back up one second. There wasn’t one person, but probably one thing.Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., The Washington Post was a staple of my morning routine since I was in elementary school. I wasn’t a hoops junkie or anything yet, but I was a reader and I wasn’t going to read the news, style or business sections. Sports made more sense. I learned to love sports just as much because of what I read as what I saw.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOf course rooting for teams was fun — even when I realized that there was no chance the Eagles or Nationals would ever win a title — but the stories were fun.And that’s why this year’s Syracuse season, in all of its beautiful imperfection, was perfect.How many years do you get to say you saw one of the best shots in SU history, Jim Boeheim’s only ejection and a 25-0 start? Every time you looked up, there was some new story seemingly more unbelievable than the last.In the middle of it all, I had a chance to go back to where it all started for myself. The Orange’s trip to Maryland will probably just be remembered as a throwaway road game in a wild, wild season, but that was where I grew up and fell in love with basketball. The 2002 Terrapins were the only championship team I ever rooted for. My family has had tickets since the Comcast Center opened. I know C.J. Fair enjoyed playing in front of his friends and family, and I like to think I felt at least a little bit the same.For the first time, my childhood and my future totally collided. UMD made me love college basketball — the greatest game — and now I was in College Park getting to watch it, and of course write about it, as a job.But suddenly, on March 22, I looked up and it was all over. Dayton stunned Syracuse. My time at The Daily Orange didn’t end on that night, but it felt like it did. I never viewed myself a Syracuse fan, but it was sad to see that team’s run — and, more selfishly, my own run — end in Buffalo. It was like the end of a good book that you never want to stop reading.This summer, I’ll be back at home. I’ll be in Maryland for as long of a stretch of time as I’ve had in years. And every morning, when I sit down at the kitchen table, The Washington Post will be sitting right there. For some reason my parents still subscribe — I like to think it’s because I’m a newspaper guy. Actually, come to think of it, maybe it’s not about the paper where the story was told, but the ones who made sure I was getting to take them all in.David Wilson was a staff writer at The Daily Orange where his column will no longer appear. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DBWilson2.-30- Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 28, 2014 at 12:56 am
Jacob Schwoerer/The Badger HeraldThere are typically more than 100 players on a college football team, and they all have two things in common.(1) They all have a craving for playing time.(2) They have five years of eligibility to satisfy it.That means college football teams are rife with competition, and no player’s hold on a starting spot is immune to it.Wisconsin senior cornerback Devin Smith learned that the hard way last season.Starting all 13 games in the 2009-10 season as a sophomore, Smith led the team in passes defended (11) and pass breakups (nine) while finishing fourth in tackles (55). He also snagged two interceptions.Heading into his junior season, many expected Smith to become one of the Big Ten’s top defensive backs. Instead, he lost his starting spot and spent more time on the sidelines than on the field.At this time one year ago, as the football team gathered for its spring and summer camps, Smith fell victim to that competition. Teammates Antonio Fenelus and Niles Brinkley outplayed him for the two starring roles at corner.“I guess there was just good competition all the way around,” he said. “We were just constantly competing, and I started fighting injuries towards the end of summer as well. I just had to take the role I had and just do anything I could to make our team better.”Fenelus and Brinkley proceeded to earn honorable mention All-Big Ten designations, as voted on by the coaches (Fenelus also earned First Team by the media), while Smith was forced to fill in as a nickelback. He appeared in all 13 games, amassing 30 tackles and one interception.According to defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash – who now enters his second year at UW – last year’s reduced role humbled Smith but also taught him how to return to the starting lineup.“It’s difficult for anybody to go through that when they’ve been the guy on the field on game day, and then all of a sudden you’re standing there watching,” Ash said. “That’s a tough deal to go through, but he accepted it. Eventually he understood what he needed to do, and he’s gone and done it.”But with every year comes new opportunities. Brinkley has since gone on to graduate, leaving a clear shot for Smith to regain the role he enjoyed two years ago.Now, Smith is responding to any and all competition.“Before, things came easy for Devin, and then when other guys started to step up, he didn’t step up and now he’s learned to compete, and he’s competing right now to make himself the best he can be,” Ash said.After two weeks of spring camp, Smith has earned playing time with the first-team defense and appears to be the No. 1 candidate to start opposite Fenelus at cornerback this season.Throughout camp, Smith has dealt with a sprained AC joint – a joint in the top of the shoulder – although he has said it’s a “really minor” injury. The UW staff has given him a green jersey like quarterbacks wear for practice to make other players aware.However, that green jersey hasn’t prevented him from at least some kinds of drills involving contact. Thursday, he participated in bump and run drills with wide receivers and, despite his maimed shoulder, did not allow a single receiver to get past him without first disrupting the route too much. Saturday, he again practiced with the first team defense in a scrimmage.“I definitely think he’s embracing the role as the starting corner,” redshirt senior safety Aaron Henry said. “He’s definitely upped his level of play. He really hasn’t been doing anything that he wasn’t doing initially, but I think it’s just the confidence level. Last year he wasn’t as confident. I’m sure he’d tell you that, but going into spring ball, he’s a whole lot more confident. He knows he can play with anybody in the country.”When asked where the Smith’s strengths lie, Ash mentioned that although he does have a lot of talent, it’s the football IQ and technique that allow Smith to succeed.That’s lucky for Ash, because Smith still hopes to improve in those areas – as well as others – in the leadup to his senior year.“I’m really just focusing on my technique as a whole,” Smith said. “Also, I’m just trying to make sure I become a smarter player, just recognizing certain situations, being able to play a lot faster and just becoming a lock-down corner on my side where the rest of my team can count on me.”Now that’s competing.