Only in recent years have football fans become aware of what coaches have known for a long time. A wide receiver that is willing to block, is willing to work at getting better at blocking, is invaluable. It’s the kind of thing that turns losses into gains, short yardage into big yardage, first downs into touchdowns.
In a run-oriented offense, a receiver might get a pass thrown their way two or three times a game. If he’s going to be on the field, he better be willing to block and learn to block well.
That’s certainly part of why Landon Smith got on the field for the Bryant Hornets as a junior in 2015. He did wind up second on the team with 25 receptions for 251 yards but that, in itself, indicates how much the Hornets threw the ball as they rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and won a conference championship, coming a whisker away from knocking out eventual champion Fayetteville in the Class 7A playoffs.
As a senior, with a revised passing attack under a new coaching staff led by Buck James, Smith was a clutch receiver with 41 catches for 461 yards and a touchdown. And his blocking remained a major asset as the Hornets used bubble screens and speed sweeps.
“The stat we don’t have on Landon is he probably had 25 pancakes,” James said, referring to “pancake” blocks that are usually reserved for 275-pound linemen. “He was as good as blocker as he was a receiver.”
Others noticed too. And, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, Smith, the son of Becky and Lathan Smith, signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his education and his football career under scholarship at Arkansas Tech University of Russellville.
James, who introduced him as Landon “I Might Be In A Bad Mood” Smith, a recasting of the nickname of teammate Marvin “Bad Mood” Moody, who also signed on Wednesday, added, “I think Landon is the epitome of a young man who goes through the program and gets better each and every year, then shows college coaches that he has a chance to play at the next level. From a working standpoint, I don’t know if anybody ever worked any harder or cared any more. He’ll be a great ambassador for Arkansas Tech.”
James mentioned that Smith as well as Hayden Knowles another Tech signee from Bryant, were among the first to adapt to the new system the coaching staff instituted. It was the first indication of the leadership they brought to the squad.
“With a new coach and everything, we had a lot of obstacles we had to face,” Smith said, adding of his senior teammates. “I can honestly say that was the hardest working bunch I’ve ever been around. We just came in every day and knew we had a goal. We wanted to go further than any (Bryant) team’s gone and there was only one way to do it so we just worked as hard as could.”
Of course, the Hornets did just that, reaching the State semifinals for the first time in the program’s history.
“I started really young, played quarterback and some running back to begin with then quarterback when I went to middle school,” Smith recalled. “My height wasn’t really there for it so they moved me to receiver. I worked hard, got it done.
“At the beginning, I knew we were a run heavy offense and I had to work on my blocking more, just drill on my blocking and try to figure out what technique would be best, just work on that,” he explained. “We threw intermediate routes so I worked on my route-running and that kind of thing.”
Regarding his move into the starting lineup as a junior, Smith related, “We lost a senior then we had another senior that was going to be ahead of me quit so I knew I’d have to step up and be a big part of the offense. So, I just worked real hard, tried to work on my weaknesses.
“I like blocking,” he added. “It just comes to me.”
As for his decision, Smith said, “Lyon College offered me and a few others small schools but I knew from the beginning I was going to Arkansas Tech. I liked the school from the beginning. My sister’s up there. And just after looking at the campus and talking with the coaches, I think it’s the place for me.”
He said he plans on studying Business Management.