Gardener, surfer & emerging Hustle fan favorite Matt Smith sits down to answer a few questions
by Charles Wendell Morris III
How does it feel to be "The Matt Smith?" Did you come into this season expecting to make such an impact both on the field and with our fan-base?
I'm not sure anyone with a name as common as mine will ever be "The Matt Smith." To be honest, I came into the season with zero expectations. I tried out on a whim because a friend of mine mentioned Atlanta was starting a team and I figured I'd see what the tryout experience was like. I felt like I could run around with anybody but I really had no idea that I would have the impact I appear to be having.*
I'm a little uncomfortable with the spotlight really, mostly because I've never been in this position before. I've generally been kind of a mercenary; traveling around a lot and jumping on whatever team is in the area offering the most fun to be had. I've won the respect of plenty of guys but have never been a "big name" and I haven't played on any big name teams. Even my time on the [Rhode Island] Rampage seems to have quickly been forgotten by the larger ultimate community. It's certainly nice to gain a little recognition within the bigger Atlanta community.
*Matt currently leads the AUDL with 46 Goals Scored
Can you tell us a little about your previous AUDL experience? How have things changed since then?
My previous experience in the AUDL was a wild ride. I played in the AUDL's inaugural season (even in its inaugural game, RI vs. CT). The biggest difference between now and then is simply the organization throughout the league. I mean, after the first season two teams got sued out of the league and the league champions (Spinners) left for the MLU! I feel like that just shows how frantic everything was the first year. Now there's 4 divisions, there's highly accurate stats for every game, way more high definition footage, there's the ESPN game of the week. All that wasn't around then. That first year was a huge experiment; I think the larger ultimate community always supported the pros but there was definitely more skepticism within the community. People now seem to have been bought in and are encouraging of the whole endeavor. I can only hope the league's popularity continues to grow within the ultimate community but also in the population at large.
Will you briefly discuss your involvement in the Alabama youth ultimate development scene?
I was an assistant coach for FORGE (former Birmingham youth team) a couple years ago. They lost a lot of players and the team folded which was kind of sad to see. However, this year a group of local players got together and created the Birmingham Ultimate Youth Association (BUYA) which has been a great success. I am not an official coach because I just don't have the time while trying to Hustle but I try to be involved with the program when there's time available. It's great to see "non-ultimate" kids starting to play, and by that I mean kids whose parents didn't play or are not involved in the Birmingham ultimate community. This is where all the nation's talent is hidden, there are some potentially amazing players out there who don't even know what ultimate is right now.
As one of our longer commutes, how do you balance practice, games, and the busyness of young adulthood?
It's hard to find time for everything. Fortunately for Brian Moore (the other Alabamian) and I, the practice facility is in western Atlanta so that saves us a chunk of time having to fight through traffic every Wednesday. It's only a ~2 hour drive so that's not so bad, the kicker is losing the hour from Birmingham to Atlanta due to time zone changes. You obviously gain it back returning but you have to leave an hour earlier…which is a pain.
We hired someone to help with our business over the summer so that helps a lot. Our business was expanding so it was becoming difficult to juggle the AUDL and Magic City Gardening since it's just my fiancé and I, but adding some help will hopefully open time for me to focus more on the second half of the season.
Obviously everyone is talented and this is a tricky one, but pick 6 people on the Hustle that you want on the field with you on U.P.- The first six that come to mind. Why?
Tough like you said because everyone is talented and with players possessing specific roles it would kind of depend if we were receiving on universe or not but I get the gist. I've been really impressed with Dylan and Runner; they're two of the veteran guys on the team and they're both getting back into it but that's what makes their play so impressive. They're having a very meaningful impact on the games and I feel like they're still working towards 100%. Jay Clark is one of the most fundamentally sound players I've ever played with. Just really strong in every facet of the game: offense/defense it doesn't seem to matter so he would be on there for universe. Kyle Stapleton has impressed me this season as well; he's got great athleticism, strong decision making, and this kid has an absolute BOMB of a huck. It rivals anybody's and he's got it down at a pretty young age.
I really wish Byron weren't injured. He's an amazing talent and I'd put him on any line. His throws are a thing of beauty and he's got the athleticism to boot. His handler defense is absolutely stifling. Last guy would probably be Poole; he's steady and I've got a lot of faith that he'll make the right play whatever that may be. His throws are also ridiculous and something I'm striving to emulate; they're not huge bombs necessarily (mine aren't either) but the touch he puts on them is unmatched really.
Any closing comments?
I'd like to put it out there that I'm grateful to the Hustle for giving me a fair shot at the roster. I've been overlooked a lot of places because people didn't know my name beforehand, I've always just wanted a fair chance to shine and I feel like the people here gave me that.
Highlight of the season so far was definitely the overtime win over Raleigh because it took everything we had and a good bit of luck to come out on top. They're a very talented team and it's fun to play them because of the level of competition.
This is a strange analogy but I promise it's truer than you'd think, but catching a huck from Dylan is a lot like catching a big wave. There's a lot of timing involved and there's this moment where you know you're about to take off and you're just hoping it's as big as reasonably possible. Sometimes the wave breaks wrong (throwaway, out of bounds huck), but sometimes everything lines up perfectly and there's a rush as you just go with the flow.
This has been a fun experience and I look forward to continuing to be a part of this team.