Before Havre’s Andy Smith started playing football for the Montana State University-Northern Lights, it wasn’t exactly at the forefront of his mind. Yet, all it took was one chance meeting with then Lights legendary head coach Walt Currie and the offer of a $200 scholarship to make the former Blue Pony star a part of the newly reinstated Northern football team.
“It was funny how it worked out,” Smith said. “Playing football for Northern was kind of like a second chance for me. One day the coach just happened to be walking by and someone told him I had been All-State with the Ponies and that he should recruit me. He offered me a scholarship and that’s how I got back into football. It was never something that I planned, it just happened, but I was grateful for the opportunity to compete again.”
After decades without it, Lights football came back in 1998 and Smith was a part of those early days, in fact, he was quite possibly the Lights’ best player during that time earning first-team All-Conference honors three times and being named as an honorable mention for the NAIA All-American Team.
Regardless of the era he played in, Smith is arguably the greatest receiver in the history of Lights’ football and still holds numerous school records. He holds single game records for receptions (13), touchdowns (3), the record for most receptions in season with 67, the most receiving yards in a season with 1,087 and the most receiving yards in a career with 2,641.
That’s why there was added significance when Smith became the first MSU-N football player of the modern era (beginning in 1998) to be inducted in the school’s sports Hall of Fame. Smith was inducted into the Northern Hall of Fame back in May, in front of family, friends and former teammates.
“It was a great honor to go into the Hall of Fame and wasn’t really something I was expecting,” Smith said. ”I look at it almost like a team award. Receiver is a position where a lot of other guys have to do their job in order for you to be successful. I had the honor of playing for Walt Curry and played with some great players. I owe a lot of my success to them.”
Smith, who earned a teaching degree at Northern, now teaches P.E. and weight training at Havre High, while also coaching pole vaulting for the track team. Previously Smith was the head coach for the boys basketball team and served in the same position at Rocky Boy High School before that.
Smith was inducted alongside Kyle Fisher this past May and became one of 49 members in the Northern Hall of Fame. The fact that both Smith and Fisher are Havre High alums and taught together at the high school, made it even more meaningful.
“It was nice to go in with Kyle,” Smith said “Him and I worked together at the high school, so it was a cool thing that we went in at the same time.”
Despite all his individual success, Smith played football during the early times of Northern Football, so wins were hard to come by. In Smith’s final season, the Lights started to get competitive and posted a 4-6 record that could have been better if a few close games had gone their way.
“I know 4-6 doesn’t sound really great but after only playing for football again for three years as a program, it was something,” Smith continued. “The thing about that season is that we lost a few games by three points or less, so if could have won a couple of those games we could have had a winning season, which would have been a huge accomplishment.”
Regardless of the records, it can’t be disputed that Smith and the guys he played with helped build a foundation that allowed Northern football to grow and eventually prosper.
“The great thing about playing on those teams is you were just surrounded by guys that loved the game, He said. “There was a lot of guys like me that were maybe a little older or were overlooked when it came to recruiting and it gave us all a chance to play again. I will just always remember the great teammates I played with and the coaches I had, those are the things that I take away from it the most.”