“The Player Behind the Trick Shots: Brodie Smith’s Comeback in the American Ultimate Disc League”
“Need a hand” is the observer’s way of telling the offense that it is out of time and it needs to start the point. Brodie Smith gives a hand signal (his college number 21) to the defense to pull. Fourteen hearts — seven offense and seven defense — are rapidly pounding to the drum of the first point of the Ultimate frisbee game. “Disc in…in 3, 2, 1…” Down comes the pull to the Dallas Roughnecks. The pull is a beauty; after nicely floating, it descends onto the fifteen yard line. Jacksonville Cannons march down the field in a tight man to man defense. Smith, a center handler, picks up the disc for the Roughnecks and patiently waits for the pull play to develop. In a matter of seconds, Smith rips a monstrous, seventy-yard flick huck — a throw with the forearm and flick of your wrist — to his long time friend and teammate, Kurt Gibson; Gibson then has a quick toss to Casey Hogg to make the first point for the team and Smith’s first point in over a year.
The dramatic play left the entire Ultimate community ecstatic. Brodie Smith had not played a single point since April of 2015, and none of his ability was gone. American Ultimate Disc League’s Instagram account immediately lit up with a clip of the point which was captioned, “In his @droughnecksdebut, @brodiesmith21 wasted zero time unleashing a powerful flick huck. #AUDL.” After the game they followed up with another picture captioned, “Back at it. #AUDL”(to the left.) The brace he is wearing on his right knee is a constant reminder of Smith’s journey back to disc league .
In 2012, the AUDL began its inaugural season, and Brodie Smith was signed by the Indianapolis AlleyCats. The AlleyCats might have picked up the Derrick Rose — 2011–2012 NBA MVP and Champion — of Ultimate. Smith had graduated from the University of Florida in 2010, and during his five years at Florida, he led them to two National Titles in 2006 and 2010. He was best known for his towering height — 6ft 5in — and his incredible deep throws.
While Ultimate is still a small sport, it was much smaller in 2012. Not many people knew that Ultimate even existed. Similarly to American Football, games are played in four quarters of fifteen minutes each, but each score is just one point.
Smith’s was a career that appeared to be on the rise. Not only was he leading the team in assists, but he also made some incredible catches: most notably was a game-tying Hail Mary to send the AlleyCats into overtime versus the Columbus Cranes.
Smith’s ascent to the top of his game came to a crushing stall in April of 2012, when Smith tore his meniscus while attempting to catch a soaring disc in the end zone. This injury brought his 2012 season to an abrupt end, and may have ruined his chances at his first AUDL championship. Even without Smith for the remainder of the season, Indianapolis still made it to the finals, but fell short 22–29 against the Philadelphia Spinners. Had Indianapolis’ leader in assists played, the outcome of that game may have vastly differed.
To this day, his injured knee has kept Smith from the sweet victory he desires and some say deserves. Smith chose to leave Indianapolis for the Chicago Wildfire in 2013. The Wildfire’s signing brought great excitement and anticipation for a title to all of its fans. It also provided everyone in the league with a chance to see what Smith could still do. Unfortunately for the city of Chicago, sport’s greats seem to come there to die. Smith’s previous injury to his knee forced him to seize playing during the 2013 season. Similarly, a few months later in October, another of Chicago’s favorite sons, Derrick Rose, had his second knee injury, a torn meniscus; two athletes who were the best in their sports taken down by a weakness in their knees. Smith sat out during both the 2013 and 2014 seasons to allow his knee to heal. Whether his lingering issues were due to improper care or whether Smith was naturally prone to knee problems, he yearned to get back on the field. Smith aggressively sought physical therapy in 2014 with hopes of being healthy in the 2015 season. Throughout this time, the Chicago Wildfire believed in him and in his recovery. In Smith’s eyes, it was now or never. He had to rehabilitate his knee so that he could fulfill dream of winning an AUDL Championship.
Hopes were high for the Wildfire’s 2015 season and for Smith’s return. In April of that season however, Smith re-injured his knee. This time Smith tore his ACL during an up-line cut against the Minnesota Wind Chill.
Five days later, Smith released a vlog on his YouTube channel. He apologized and stated, “I’m sorry that, uh, to the Wildfire, to the AUDL, to all my fans. I’m sorry that this year I won’t be able to play.” Perhaps Smith was also apologizing to himself. He later commented that he was really looking forward to playing in the future. Not only did he let down all those aforementioned, but he let himself down and perhaps spoiled another chance for a Championship run. This time Smith knew that he must recover fully or he ran the risk of the injury being the death knell in his career. He vowed, “I’m gonna be working really hard to get back out there next year.” Only time would tell if his protracted recovery time would allow Smith to finish his illustrious career on a high note.
On February 18 2016, Brodie Smith was officially signed by a brand new AUDL franchise, Dallas Roughnecks. Similarly due to injuries, Derrick Rose recently was traded away from the Chicago Bulls to the New York Knicks.
With the Ultimate season to begin two months later in April, there was no timetable for Smith’s return to the field. This year, everything was about getting healthy to stay healthy. Brodie Smith had the opportunity to differentiate his narrative from Rose’s; he could fall short of greatness because of his four-year old injuries, or he could recover and again become the best player in Ultimate.
He issued a statement on twitter concerning the signing. “ It has been a bumpy road these past few seasons with all my knee injuries and so I’m very blessed for getting another shot to play in the AUDL. Also it will be pretty cool to play with these two dudes [captains — Freechild and Mickle] again. They are beasts on the frisbee field. So thanks again for the Roughnecks giving me a shot, thanks to the AUDL for making frisbee players’ dreams come true, and thanks to all you guys for continuing to support me!”
Although he was excited to play, Smith did not step foot on the field until June 11, 2016 when the Roughnecks played the Jacksonville Cannons. He patiently waited until he felt his knee was 100% — more than 12 months. As if he had been playing consistently and pain-free for the last four years, Smith immediately was back to his old ways: finding Kurt Gibson with a seventy-yard huck on his first point back. I reached to him for comment on what must have been an unbelievable moment, but did not receive a response. But after being injured for so long and to be reunited with his long time friend Kurt Gibson through such an incredible huck connection, he must have felt redemption and relief.
Here we are over a month after Brodie Smith’s first game of the season, and the Dallas Roughnecks are poised to win their first playoff game on July 23 against the Atlanta Hustle. The Roughnecks currently sit on top of the South Division 14–0. If destiny has its way, Brodie Smith and the Roughnecks could very well achieve greatness together and put a perfect cap on the story of Smith’s comeback in the AUDL.
American Ultimate Disc League(theaudl). “Back at it #AUDL.” 14 June 2016. Instagram.
AUDL(theAUDL). “It’s official: @Brodiesmith21 joins the @DRoughnecks #AUDL https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CbgijazWAAAbDsk.jpg:large" 18 February 2016, 10:54 AM. Tweet.
“AUDL 2015 Full Schedule.” TheAUDL | Pro Ultimate Frisbee. n.p. n.d. Web. 22 July 2016.
Brodie Smith Time. “Brodie Smith Tears His ACL.” Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube, 30 April 2015. Web. 22 July 2016.
Eisenhood, Charlie. “Brodie Smith Re-Signs With Chicago Wildfire.” Ultiworld. Ultiworld, 13 December 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.
Everything Ultimate. “Brodie Smith’s Horrific Ultimate Injury.” YouTube. Youtube, 24 April 2015. Web. 22 July 2016.
Leppert, Jimmy. “Philadelphia Wins Inaugural AUDL Championship.” Skyd Magazine. Skyd LLC, 20 August 2012. Web. 22 July 2016.
Smith, Brodie. “Brodie Smith 2.” RattlingChains.com. 2013. JPEG file.
Smith, Brodie(brodiesmith21) “https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CbiS- nKUAAMEd64.jpg" 18 February 2016, 7:05 PM. Tweet.
Smith, Brodie(brodiesmith21). “Clear for takeoff. After 4 long years, 3 knee surgeries, and tons of support from you guys I’m getting closer and closer to making the plays I know I can. I am however incredibly out of shape. My cardio is abysmal, I have little explosion in my cuts or jumps, and my game speed is slow. I have so much to work on and get better, but that growth has me so exciting. Since you guys motivate me everyday here is hopefully some motivation in return. It doesn’t matter where you start, the only thing that matters is how you finish. Keep building, keep working, keep striving to the best you can be. #staydarkhorse” 15 July 2015. Instagram.
“2006 College — USA Ultimate” USA Ultimate. USA Ultimate. n.d. Web. 22 July 2016.
“2010 College — USA Ultimate” USA Ultimate. USA Ultimate. n.d. Web. 22 July 2016.