Smith’s progression from freshman to senior year key to Bearden’s defensive success


Lily Price

Kam Smith (92) makes a play in the backfield against Jefferson County last year.

Kam Smith has always been a leader.

Although he hasn’t necessarily been the loudest person on the field, his play on Bearden’s defensive line speaks for itself. 

Smith came into the program as a freshman with an abundance of energy and plenty of excitement.

“When he was a freshman, he was very athletic, very explosive, a little bit wild,” Bearden Coach Morgan Shinlever said. “He kind of went out there and played.”

Throughout his four years at Bearden, Smith has taken the opportunity to improve as a player: both mentally and physically.

“I would say I’ve grown a lot since freshman year, just with my mindset and how I go about things on and off the field,” Smith said. “I’ve gotten way stronger, a little taller, and a little faster on the defensive line.

“I would say my work ethic has gotten better from freshman year and the way I lead now is so much better than freshman year.”

Smith will lead the Bulldogs (2-2, 1-0 Region 2-6A) at home against Maryville on Friday night at 7. Bearden is still seeking its first win against the Rebels (4-0, 1-0) since 1993.

This year as a senior, Smith is leading a Bearden defense that is allowing only 16.5 points a game. In the first four games this season, the Bulldogs’ first team defense has only given up three touchdown drives that started before the 50-yard line.

“We have all played as a team, and we have all prepared great in practice heading into games,” Smith said. “Everyone on the field is hungry and has something to prove, and I love that mentality out of everybody.”

Smith’s ability to quickly get in the backfield and disrupt the offense’s rhythm often ends with him adding to his impressive tally of sacks and tackles for a loss. But even when it’s not him who earns the statistic, he still often creates enough chaos to give an opportunity to another defensive lineman or linebacker.

Smith was chosen as one of four captains by the entire team along with Seth Arana, Nicco Young, and Carson Hammond. 

“I think that says a lot about Kam’s leadership and work ethic,” said Coach Shinlever, who is also Smith’s position coach. “And then obviously, with his performance on the field, when you’re a pretty good guy that leads by example and is encouraging to others, they’ll follow.”

Added Smith: “I try to stay calm and focused at all times so I can show my other teammates. If I’m doing good playing my game, it will rub off on them, so they all have good games and just go out and play.”

These leaders have also been people that underclassmen can always come to for help or guidance, whether it be on or off the field.

“I like to see all my other defensive linemen win,” Smith said. 

If they do that Friday night against the Rebels, Smith’s impact will have hit historic new levels.