At the end of this past year’s Big Walnut High School football season, senior offensive and defensive lineman Sandy Smith thought that was it. With his high school career coming to a close so was football in his life because Smith plans to attend the University of Dayton and study dentistry, where he knows he would be too busy to play sports.
But out of the blue Smith will have one more game on a football field, and not just any game.
Smith is one of 36 U18 football players from around the United States who were selected to travel to Ireland with American Football Worldwide ELITE to participate in a week-long immersion experience, concluding with a game against the U-19 National Team of Ireland.
Smith flew to Chicago on last Friday (March 31) where team members from around the United States gathered for a flight to Dublin on Saturday. They fly back to the US this coming Sunday.
There will be plenty of sightseeing, but it’s not an all play, no work tour of Ireland; team members who have never played with or against each other must prepare for a football game during which they will have the rare opportunity of representing their country on foreign soil.
“In November I got an email from Jim Barnes of American Football Worldwide letting me know I would be going to Ireland,” Smith said. “He told me that they been to other countries but this would be their first time playing in Ireland. I started working out in the weight room and studying their play books. When we get there we’ll start practice on Monday.”
Smith said it would be interesting playing against a team that does not come from a football culture.
“In Ireland football is not huge, but it’s growing,” Smith said. “They have private football clubs that they organize using their own money. I’ve heard they’re passionate about everything they do, so it will be a challenging game.”
Big Walnut High School Head Varsity Football Coach Joe Weaver said he couldn’t think of anyone better that Sandy Smith to represent Big Walnut and the United States of America in Ireland.
“Sandy was a team Captain his senior year, and his work ethic has been second-to-none,” Weaver said. “On the field he’s always the undersized kid as a linesman, but he plays with the tremendous amount of heart. He’s never been over-challenged because he plays at such a high level.”
Weaver noted that Smith’s athletic accomplishments, in addition to being a team captain, include: second year Letterman, All-OCC Special Mention, Golden Eagle Award, and Big Walnut Scholar-Athlete.
Weaver said Smith also excels in the classroom as well as on the football field. Smith is a member of the French and Spanish honor societies, the Big Walnut High School Chapter of the National Honor Society, and is a member of the high school’s Principle’s Leadership Team.
Outside of school, he’s a member and leader of the St. John Neumann Catholic Church Youth Group.
Smith said he’s looking forward to the opportunity to visit Ireland, spend time touring local sights, and playing one final football game before heading off to college.
“I’m very excited because I’m not going to play football in college, so this is the last time I’ll be out there on the field,” Smith said. “I’m also excited about meeting a lot of other high school players from around the country, training together, and then representing our country against some of the best football players Ireland has to offer.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.