The Legacy of Ryan Smith


Ryan Smith has had one heck of a career at Robert Morris. Photo Credit: Nathan Breisinger

Owen Krepps

Entering high school, Ryan Smith was 4’10”, not very athletic, and could eat 40 wings in one sitting. Flash forward a few years, and that same Smith is the all-time leader in points for Robert Morris University men’s lacrosse. He has also been drafted into the National Lacrosse League (NLL) with the Rochester Knighthawks, selected third overall in 2020.

On April 10th, 2021 the graduate attackman surpassed Trevor Moore (2008-11) with his 196th career point scoring a goal against the Cleveland State Vikings. Smith, with now over 200 points all-time, is the sole leader in points in the history of Robert Morris Lacrosse. He is also first all-time in games played (67), and fourth all-time in assists (70).

“It’s an honor to be recognized along some of those all-time greats that have come through our program,” Smith said in an interview in early April.

Smith has had nothing less of a historic career, not only individually, but being a part of back-to-back NEC Championship teams for Robert Morris in 2018 and 2019. However, there was a chance that Smith could have never ended up playing lacrosse in the first place.

It all came down to Ryan’s father being bored at tee-ball games.

“My dad didn’t want to watch my cousin play tee-ball so he signed me up for a more exciting sport [in lacrosse]. He got bored and he wanted more action,” he said.

The Smith family hails from Burlington, Ontario and Ryan was a multi-sport athlete from the age of three. Being Canadian, he was on skates playing hockey as early as he could remember. But in the spring and summer months, Smith picked up lacrosse.

“I always played hockey and lacrosse since the age of three, so I started skating when I was about two-and-a-half, and then that winter when I turned three, and I started playing hockey. I started playing lacrosse that next summer as well.”

Much like everyone at Colonial Sports Network, Smith’s athletic abilities were lacking throughout high school, but his sticktoitiveness and passion for the sport of lacrosse allowed him to improve every year at Nelson High School.

“I was definitely a late bloomer. Not a lot of people know this, but going into high school I was only four-foot-ten. I was not the biggest guy by any means, and I wasn’t athletic back then either. [Luckily,] I had a 15-16 inch growth spurt throughout high school.”

Being such a late developer, Smith was only looked at by one Division I school to play lacrosse, that being Robert Morris University. Taking a chance on smaller and overlooked players is something that RMU excels at with recent examples such as Brady Ferguson, Nina Augustin, and Lexi Templeman.

“Robert Morris was the only Division I school that I talked to for playing lacrosse. I definitely didn’t know it was going to turn out like this. I am very grateful for coach [Andrew] McMinn and everything he has done for me with giving me this opportunity.”

Smith, like any good leader, credits his teammates for his success as well. Playing five years in the program has allowed Smith to play alongside some fierce competitors. Smith has no shortage of people to address and to thank.

“Tyson Gibson and I always worked really well together. When Jimmy [Perkins] was at RMU before he went back to Utah, we always worked well together. [Matt] Schmidt, whenever you gave him the ball he put it in the back of the net. Now with Corson Kealey, Jake Boudreau, and Austin Popovich, we have really good chemistry on offense too.”

The fuelling of great athletes that are led by a coach that gets the best out of his players has allowed RMU men’s lacrosse to be one of the strongest teams on campus for the past few years. In 2018 and 2019, RMU won back-to-back Northeast Conference (NEC) Championships and entered the NCAA tournament.

“It was awesome being a part of the first two teams that have ever done that in program history. We were raising the standard for teams in the future to follow.”

In the 2020 season, RMU looked to three-peat and enter the NCAA tournament once more, but COVID-19 changed all of that. The 2020 season was canceled and the senior class, which included Smith, only got to play six games.

However, the NCAA offered another year of academic eligibility for collegiate athletes and Smith took that opportunity and joined several others who did the same.

“I thought it would be pretty dumb of me to not come back and I am very happy that I did. Especially when the NLL season got canceled. All of my friends back home haven’t played lacrosse in a year and a half, and I am still playing, so I am grateful to be back.”

COVID aside, this season for RMU men’s lacrosse has been a strange one given that the team is currently playing out of conference. The team will join the ASUN conference next season, but of course, Smith will be gone by then. On top of this, the team has been on the road for the majority of the season.

“We have always had the mindset that we will play anyone anywhere at any time and we are just embodying that this year. We have always been road warriors throughout my five years.”

Being out of conference, RMU cannot win a conference championship this season. Nonetheless, Smith and the Colonials will look to make the most out of their second chance at a final season and make it back to the NCAA tournament.

“You only get four to five years to do this and to be a college athlete and they are some of the greatest moments in your life. I know a lot of people that didn’t come back for their fifth year are regretting it because you only get so long to do this.”

Ryan Smith’s lacrosse career has no shortage of accomplishment in it, but the one that trumps all is that he is the fact that he is not done yet. Smith was drafted 3rd overall in the 2020 National Lacrosse League draft to the Rochester Knighthawks. The NLL is the highest level of North American Lacrosse play.

“[Being drafted was] one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. It was a super cool feeling to be drafted by them and I am very excited to get to camp in the fall and to try and earn a spot on the roster.”

This season Smith has been placed on the Tewaaraton Award watchlist. The Tewaarton Award is college lacrosse’s equivalent to the Heisman or Hobey Baker award for an MVP. Smith’s career has showcased just how much of a powerhouse program RMU men’s lacrosse has become over the past few seasons and the organization is starting to receive recognition because of it.

Despite all of these awards and accolades, Smith’s goal of making it back to the NCAA tournament is his main motivator. RMU men’s lacrosse (6-5) has one regular-season game left as they hit the road to face the Utah Utes (3-6) on May 1st at 1 pm.