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Smith learning ins, outs with Saskatchewan Roughriders

FARGO — Ryan Smith admits he’s still learning the Canadian Football League rules — which differ from the American rules he followed in his high school and college careers.

“Every day it is something different,” said Smith, a wide receiver for the defending Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The CFL field is longer and wider. Each team uses 12 players, one more than American rules. Multiple players can be in motion at the snap of the ball.

“At the end of the day, it’s still football,” said Smith, who helped NDSU win three consecutive Division I FCS national championships. “You’ve got to remember that and go out there and play in between the lines.”

Smith made his pro and CFL debut last Sunday, catching one pass for four yards in the Roughriders’ 31-10 victory against Hamilton. Smith also had one punt return for 48 yards.

Smith played in his second CFL game Saturday when Saskatchewan played at Toronto in the second game of a 20-game regular season. Smith had two catches for 51 yards.

“The speed of the game … it’s really fast up here, a lot faster than college.”

The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Smith rotates in at slot back, a position that can “waggle” or be in motion toward the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. In American football, a player can’t be moving toward the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball.

An elusive player in the open field, Smith thinks the CFL game plays to his strengths.

“I think the game definitely helps me out a lot with the bigger field and having that waggle spot,” Smith said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed being up here.”

Smith finished his career at NDSU with 147 catches for 1,783 yards and eight touchdowns. He also rushed for 271 yards on 32 attempts. Smith said playing for the Bison helped prepare him to be a pro.

“NDSU got me really ready to focus on what I was supposed to do, having that pro-like style about myself,” said Smith, who is from Wahpeton, N.D. “The way I was coached. The way they taught me how to approach a game has helped a lot.”

While not the NFL, Smith is thankful to be able to play football, a dream he’s had since he was a youngster.

“It’s really surreal,” Smith said. “I am really blessed to have the opportunity. … I am not going to take that for granted.”

Smith said he has talked to some of his former NDSU teammates — like quarterback Brock Jensen and defensive backs Marcus Williams and Bryan Shepherd — who are also chasing their NFL dreams.

Jensen is with Miami, Williams is with Houston, and Shepherd is with Washington.

“Even the NFL, it’s a different type of game,” Smith said. “They’ve been doing well. They’re having a lot of fun.”

Smith said his approach this season will be simple — work as hard as he can in both practice and games and be a sponge when it comes to learning the game and his position.

“Once you think you know everything that’s when you’re wrong,” Smith said.

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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