In a long list of great running backs and fullbacks to come through the St. Ansgar football program, Dayton Smith stands at the top.
Listed at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds, Smith ran with the intensity of a bruising fullback, but also had a bit of a burst to help him through the line. His numbers are what jump off the page at the end of the season, but it’s everything that went into him that made him the football player he turned out to be for the Saints. It’s why he’s been named the Globe Gazette’s co-Player of the Year.
“Dayton is kind of a quiet kid until you get to know him,” St. Ansgar coach Drew Clevenger said. “He has great leadership ability and a knack of relating to everybody on the team. He knows when to give guys pats on the back and when to kick them in the rear.
“The rest of his teammates all respected him and he is just a tremendous football player.”
There was a lot of talk before the year that St. Ansgar was taking a step back this season after making it to the state quarterfinals in 2016. Smith and the Saints took that personally.
With Smith’s hard-nosed running, St. Ansgar rattled off win after win, and by the time the dust settled, the Saints were back in the UNI-Dome yet again. Smith’s monster year led the way.
The senior finished out his record-setting career with 1,590 yards and 23 touchdowns on 244 carries. He ended up with school records in yards (3,406), touchdowns (51) and points scored (330).
He was also the Saints’ leader on defense as he racked up 115½ total tackles, which was fifth in the state regardless of class.
He’ll go down as one of the best to put on a St. Ansgar uniform.
“I really think to play fullback at St. Ansgar, you have to be a tough, hard-nosed runner, and we’ve had several of those in my 18 years,” Clevenger said. “Dayton is at the top of the heap in career rushing yards, but he’ll be one of the first to tell you those kids on that list were who he looked up to when he was younger. But it is a tremendous accomplishment for him.”
To Smith, the only thing that mattered to him was that he was able to represent St. Ansgar.
“Absolutely amazing. I would never want to go play anywhere else,” Smith said. “I’m so glad I had coaches like Clev, teammates like I got, so I’m very grateful.”