Former University of Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith had been trying to decide for months whether to return to the San Diego State football team.
As it turns out, the NCAA made the decision for him.
Smith’s NCAA injury waiver was denied, ending any chance the quarterback had to return for the 2016 season.
“We got the appeal back from the NCAA and they did not give him a sixth year,” San Diego State Coach Rocky Long said. “So it’s a foregone conclusion he can not come back and play. ...
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“He hadn’t really decided for sure if he wanted to come back or not, so we’d been preparing that he wasn’t going to come back and then if he did it would have been a bonus.”
The Aztecs will go into fall camp with sophomore Christian Chapman as the team’s starting quarterback, backed up by redshirt freshman Ryan Agnew and junior transfer Jimmy Walker. Redshirt freshman Mason Hall also is on the roster.
I don’t want to regret not taking a shot at the NFL. It’s something I might look back on and regret.
Long had discussed an opportunity for Smith to serve in a player/coach role if he returned.
“I was still in limbo a little bit on deciding what I wanted to do, but I am disappointed it got denied,” said Smith, who continues to rehab from surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered late last season. “I’m thinking of taking this next year to train and get my body right. I’m going to be training all summer long, all offseason with a quarterbacks coach.”
Smith said he is not ready to give up his dream of playing professional football. The knee injury prevented him from participating in Pro Day on campus last month with his teammates. He said he will focus on getting an opportunity next year.
“I don’t want to regret not taking a shot at the NFL,” Smith said. “It’s something I might look back on and regret. I talked to a lot of people ... The (pro) level can suit some people better than the college level. Everybody sees with quarterbacks that it’s hard to predict what happens. You work hard enough and persevere long enough, maybe something good will come.”
“If it doesn’t work out and I can’t play anywhere, whether it’s in Canada or with an NFL team, I would most likely get into coaching.”
San Diego State was trying to make a case that Smith, a graduate transfer from UK, had essentially missed two seasons with injuries while playing for the Wildcats.
San Diego State was successful petitioning for waivers last year for linebacker Jake Fely and cornerback J.J. Whittaker, who received sixth years because of extensive time lost to injuries.
Smith played in eight games (starting three) his freshman year at Kentucky. He was limited to four games his sophomore year because of an ankle injury. He played nine games as a junior (starting four), but missed three games with a shoulder injury that necessitated rotator cuff surgery following the 2013 season.
If it doesn’t work out and I can’t play anywhere, whether it’s in Canada or with an NFL team, I would most likely get into coaching.
Smith had not returned to form for the 2014 season and transferred to SDSU. He earned the starting job at San Diego State over Chapman coming into the 2015 season.
Smith struggled with the Aztecs to a 1-3 start before guiding a turnaround that pointed the San Diego State (11-3) to its winningest season in four decades.
He guided SDSU to seven straight wins — in a streak that reached 10 straight victories — before suffering a season-ending injury in the first quarter of the Aztecs’ regular-season finale against Nevada.
Smith tore his left ACL in the game. He put off surgery until after the season in an effort to participate in the postseason, but was not able to play. Smith had successful surgery the last week of December to repair the ligament.
Smith completed 110 of 200 passes for 1,529 yards and 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He set an Aztecs record by going 10 games — including the Nevada contest — without an interception.
After replacing Smith against Nevada, Chapman guided the Aztecs to a win over the Wolf Pack. Chapman also directed SDSU to a Mountain West Championship Game win over Air Force and a Hawaii Bowl victory over Cincinnati. Chapman solidified his starting position last month during spring football.