With his prep sports career concluded, Andy Smith has turned his athletic focus to helping a future Grand Junction High School athlete.

Smith played football and basketball for the Tigers. On the gridiron, he finished with 21 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown and had 71 tackles — including five for a loss — two sacks and a fumble recovery during his senior season. On the hardwood, he averaged 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in his final season.

Now, Smith spends time working out and training with Evan Severs, an eighth grader who plans on playing tennis, and potentially running track, for Grand Junction High School.

“I actually date his older sister,” Smith said. “We went and played tennis one day. Now, with all the free time we have, we just go out and work out and have fun.”

Although he played different sports than Severs, Smith knows any athletic hopes depend on a reliable, rigorous regimen.

“We do a lot of push-ups and sit-ups, then a lot of running and agility work,” Smith said. “Working on shuttle drills, sprints, body-weight exercises, stuff like that to keep us in shape for the time being.”

Smith and Severs often train at Stocker Stadium, but other options, such as turf fields on Colorado Mesa University’s campus or the practice field at Grand Junction High School, are also in play.

In the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the two have plenty of free time, but they also have to find alternative options in lieu of some of their preferred workout spots.

“The fact that gyms are closed down is a big hurdle; the fact that we don’t have as many extra things to do since places like movie theaters are closed,” Smith said. “All sorts of things are closing down. All the fun things we usually want to go and do, we can’t, so we have to be outdoorsy and creative with what we do.”

The good news for Smith and Severs: location, location, location.

“We can really train anywhere,” Smith said. “Colorado’s really an outdoorsy state anyway with mountain biking and hiking. Just being active is the main goal.”

Smith wants to remain active because he’s not finished playing sports just yet.

He plays for the Western Slope Misfits rugby club. Their season was supposed to begin this month, but like every other sport nationwide, it was halted by a public health crisis. The season is suspended until at least April 16.

“Our hope is that those games will get rescheduled and we’ll possibly get a round-robin tournament up in Denver or something like that where we can play a lot of teams really fast,” Smith said. “If not, there’s a 7-on-7 league that happens in the summer and I’ll look into that.”

Smith began playing rugby when he was invited to a team practice by one of his football teammates. One practice in, he was already in love with the game.

He needed to learn the rules, but the physical element came to him naturally.

“The most similar thing comparing football and rugby for me was the tackling,” Smith said. “Being able to wrap up. I played outside linebacker, so I got a lot of tackling experience. Wrapping up and tackling was completely the same for me.”

He soon began suiting up and playing for the club. That’s when he discovered the element of rugby that no other sport had presented: a true sense of postgame companionship between the teams.

“The home team feeds the visiting team,” Smith said of the postgame ritual. “We all sit down and eat a meal together right after the rugby game. That was the newest thing to me. It was really good feelings from everybody. Nobody had any hate for each other. We just sat together, got along and ate a nice meal.”

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