That’s how Brainerd head coach Ron Stolski describes the plethora of contributions senior Cole Smith made in the Warriors’ run to a 12-1 season, Central Lakes Conference and Section 7-5A championships, and runner-up honors in the Class 5A state tournament.
“I’ve said it before, but he was a difference-maker,” Stolski said. “He’s a player with a great work ethic, a quiet leader who leads by example, and a difference-maker since he broke into the lineup three years ago. It’s unusual for us to have a 3-year all-conference player, maybe we have, but I don’t think so.
“Certainly, if he chose to, he would be a football recruit at a pretty high level. He’s equally adept at defensive back, receiver and as a returner. Certainly he was the player that set the tone for our defense in the way he played.”
For his contributions, Smith shares Brainerd Dispatch All-Area Player of the Year honors with teammate Conor Gessell.
About the only thing Smith didn’t do for the Warriors this season was throw a pass.
Otherwise, he led the team in tackles from his safety position, tied for the team lead in interceptions (4), led the team in punt returns, was the team’s third-leading receiver and even rushed the ball twice.
For his outstanding efforts, Smith was voted the Warriors’ most valuable player, made the all-section and all-conference teams, was a scholar all-conference player and was named the team’s defensive player of the year.
“It was just a fun night,” Smith said of Monday’s football banquet. “It felt good to get recognized for your hard work and the satisfaction of having a great season. It was really a testament, not just to me, but to everyone on our football team. They helped me achieve those goals.”
Of all the awards he won, Smith said MVP may mean the most.
“Going to state was probably the biggest for the team,” he said. “Being recognized by your teammates as MVP was quite an honor.”
The above honors weren’t the only ones for Smith.
A 3.8 student and 3-sport standout, Smith was nominated for the Minnesota Football Coaches Association’s Mr. Football Award.
He was named to the Minnesota Vikings All-State High School Team, which was recognized at halftime of last week’s game against the Chicago Bears.
“It was a great experience being around a bunch of former (Vikings) players, like Chuck Foreman,” Smith said. “Being able to go on the field in front of a big crowd, surrounded by the best football players in the state, was just fascinating and fantastic.”
Smith intercepted 13 passes in his career. This season he caught 12 passes for 176 yards and a score, returned 10 punts for 208 yards and two TDs and returned four kickoffs for 121 yards and a score.
He helped Brainerd to the most wins and the most successful season in program history.
“It was just a remarkable season,” Smith said. “Pulling 90-100 guys from all different backgrounds and being able to put a team together and take second in the state finals — it was just a great experience with all the guys, and we really became a family.”
Speaking of family, his father, Tom Smith, is the Warriors’ defensive backs coach. Cole has played football, hockey and baseball for his dad.
“I grew up with him as my coach throughout the years so I’m used to it,” Cole said of being coached by his father. “His experience as a player, and being able to watch film with him, helped me elevate my game.”
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.