Smelter makes transition to baseball

DeAndre Smelter, who excels in two sports, is part of a rare breed in Division I athletics. Smelter was originally recruited by Tech to play baseball, but after several injuries to his throwing shoulder, he decided to give football a try. It was a very smart decision that benefited both him and the football team.

He led the team’s receivers in receptions and receiving touchdowns this past season and made some fantastic catches in clutch situations. Smelter plans on playing baseball this spring in his final year of eligibility for the sport, and will continue to play football this upcoming fall.

Smelter is a gifted athlete and played football throughout his childhood and high school, so it was relatively easy for him to adjust to the game at the collegiate level after only playing baseball.

“It wasn’t as tough of a transition because I played football since I was a little kid. I know a lot about it and have pretty decent instincts on what to do, so once I got out there, and I started training, it started coming back to me,” Smelter said.

“I was surprised by my performance, especially after being out of the game for so long. But after I got used to it, I knew I could contribute to the team. But I know there’s a lot of stuff that I can do to even get better for next year.”

He also did not intend on playing both sports when he first arrived at Tech.

“When I first got here I just wanted to stick with baseball; that was my main focus coming out of high school,” Smelter said. “My first couple of years of baseball, I had a lot of injuries with my shoulder and wasn’t really able to perform the way that I wanted to. I know coming out of high school I was recruited by Tech to come [play football], so I asked coach [Paul] Johnson if I could get a shot at it.”

According to Smelter, the toughest aspect of being a two-sport athlete is the amount of time that must be committed to each.

“I’ve got to fit in time to get my football workout in, but also got to find time to get my baseball throwing in, combined with class and everything else we’ve got to do, like meetings and stuff,” Smelter said. “But once you manage it, it’s really not as bad as it sounds. After our bowl game, which I think was on the 30th [of December], I got a little bit of time until we started back at school, but right when we started back at school, that’s when I was back to doing stuff. So I got a couple of days off but not too many.”

The two sports’ schedules sometimes conflict, as baseball’s fall workouts occur during the football regular season, and likewise for football’s spring practice in the middle of baseball season. As a consequence, Smelter does not have the time to fully participate, so he puts in extra work at times when both sports are out of season. Despite his loaded schedule, Smelter never considered dropping one sport to stick with the other.

Coming out of high school Smelter’s greatest potential was in baseball. He was good enough to be drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round in the 2010 MLB Draft. He is not sure if he will end up playing either sport professionally; he is mainly focused on making the most of his remaining time at Tech. He appreciates the amount of support that the fans have given him and his teams.

“The atmosphere at the UGA game was probably the best atmosphere I’ve ever been in as far as sports go,” Smelter said. “For baseball, I’d have to say my freshman year here when we had a regional against Mississippi State. That was probably my best baseball atmosphere…it was wild.”