EL DORADO Butler Community College football coach Troy Morrell didn’t have to prod Dreamius Smith very much to get him to do what he wanted.
He only suggested what Smith, a sophomore running back from Heights, already knew in the back of his own mind.
To be great – truly great – would take sacrifice.
“I don’t know if it’s being selfish, I think it’s just being programmed to do what you’ve always done,” Morrell said. “But because he is so driven to succeed, to graduate and continue his education, Dreamius broke out of that mold and hopefully he’ll be rewarded for his efforts.”
Smith, one of the most celebrated running backs in City League history, was the second and sometimes third option in the Grizzlies’ backfield last season, rushing for 663 yards and nine touchdowns on 102 carries while splitting time with Jasper Sanders and Derrick Thomas.
It was quite a change for Smith, who led Heights to the Class 6A title in 2010 while rushing for 1,837 yards and 34 touchdowns. He signed with Kansas in high school but didn’t meet minimum testing requirements and ended up having to go the junior-college route.
“At Heights it was just carry after carry after carry,” Smith said. “But when I got (to Butler) I realized pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be the man. And the coaches were constantly in my ear, telling me to do what was best for the team and it would all work out.”
That led Morrell to pull Smith aside after last season, when the Grizzlies went 11-1 and finished No. 2 in the final NJCAA poll – and lay things bare.
“(Morrell) told me I needed to focus more, that I needed to lose weight, to begin with, because I was too heavy,” Smith said. “And I took it from there.
“I started eliminating distractions pretty quickly and zeroed in on academics and football.”
Smith threw himself into his new life by first eschewing fatty foods – his diet now consists mainly of baked chicken, salad, granola bars and water – and then by shunning an entire city.
The result was Smith reporting to training camp at 215 pounds – down from the 230 he played at as a freshman -- and, as Morrell put it, “running like a deer … a truly beautiful thing.”
“I thought that by living in El Dorado and not going home, that could help me keep my focus,” Smith said. “There’s just not a lot to do here except work on school and football. I may have lost some friends by being so single-minded, but oh well. I knew staying away from Wichita would probably be a good thing.”
On track to graduate this semester after earning straight As in 15 credit hours over the summer, Smith’s support system in El Dorado is led, in large part, by a very large man.
Butler offensive tackle and fellow Heights product John McClure – 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds – was an NJCAA All-American last season and is also back for his sophomore season.
“John has been fantastic,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have somebody like that walk up to you and tell you a hole is about to open up and you should run through it.”
McClure redshirted at Kansas State in 2010 before transferring to Butler.
“Dreamius is a good kid, and we’ve been friends for a long time … back to when we were in high school and used to come over to my house,” McClure said. “He’s already got the type of personality where he has an automatic chemistry with everybody on the team, but to see how hard he’s worked kind of takes it to another level.”
Smith won’t make any decisions, save one, about his college future until after the season.
“I can say Kansas isn’t an option anymore,” Smith said. “As far as me and moving forward, I want to keep my options open and let God show me what’s best for me.”
Ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA preseason poll and Jayhawk Conference favorites once again, the Grizzlies open a new, $12 million stadium – 6,000-seat BG Products Veterans Sports Complex – on Sept. 1 against Blinn (Texas) College.