Smelley Making Impact For WV Roughriders
WHEELING — Cole Smelley hadn’t strapped on a pair of shoulder pads or buckled up a chin strap in six years. The former Bridgeport High School all-stater didn’t miss a beat last weekend when he suited up as a member of the West Virginia Roughriders indoor squad.
“It felt good. I’ve stayed in shape by training at Pyles Elite Training Center. He kept me in football shape for whenever the time came to strap it back up and put the pads on again,” Smelley said while standing outside his old lockerroom at Bill Jobko Stadium.
At linebacker, he led the Roughriders with seven tackles in their 95-18 slaughter of the Burgh Defenders inside WesBanco Arena.
“We’re aware that the competition will get much, much tougher. The Pittsburgh team was a first-year team in the league,” Smelley said. “We put up a lot of points, but at the same time, we know, as a team collectively, there are a lot of things that we need to work on and get better at. We talked about that while watching film.”
The Roughriders were on a bye week last weekend. They play at the Cape Fear Heroes on Saturday.
Smelley said he attended one of the Roughriders tryouts and then received an email from the organization inviting him to camp.
“From that point I didn’t plan on going home,” he said.
Smelley received more recognition as a quarterback during his days with the Bulldogs, but little did anyone know his real love.
“A lot of people probably don’t know it, but in high school, probably about my senior year, I kind of fell in love with defense,” he said. “Everyone knew me as an offensive player because I played quarterback, but I always loved to play defense. It’s always been more natural for me. I played free safety at Bridgeport and then I moved to outside linebacker at Muskingum.
“I just kind of stuck with that.”
At 6-foot-2, 210, he’s not your prototypical indoor linebacker.
“A lot of the linebackers in this league are a little taller, but I feel like I can make up for that with my ability to jump and my long arms,” he said. “I’m able to use my length to my advantage. I think I’ll be okay.
“I led the team in tackles, but I dropped an interception that I probably could’ve run back for a touchdown. There was a lot of gray turf ahead of me. I’m not too happy about that, but I’m going to make up for it in the next game.”
How big of an adjustment does he need to make?
“Not much of an adjustment. There are some rules that are a little bit different in arena football. The linebackers are kind of confined to a 5-yard box they have to stay inside of, so it’s a little different playing side-to-side. Sometimes I want to turn and jump a deeper route, but I’ve just got to stay at home in my box.
“It’s just something that I’ve got to be used too. I think I’ve got it down.”
The Roughriders roster is loaded with talent, including former WVU standouts Noel Devine and Jarrett Brown.
“We have a lot of talented players. Those guys are great leaders,” Smelley said. “Everybody is on the team for a reason. Everybody respects each other equally and we feel good about our chances to win a championship.”
As far as wearing No. 23?
“I wanted No. 7, but I also knew that (Noel) Devine was going to want it, so I was okay with that. With the available numbers left, I liked No. 23.”
The near-capacity crowd was also something that Smelley loved.
“The crowd was amazing. The fans are so close that you can hear them calling your name. It’s kind of cool,” he said. “This is a stepping stone, definitely, for me. I still want to play at the highest level I’m capable of.”