LINCOLN — You have to know a little about Pat Smith to understand why coming out to kick before a Memorial Stadium crowd of 91,185 wasn't going to faze him.
Smith already knew about handling fear from racing motocross bikes competitively, hitting dirt turns and jumps at high speeds before he was even a teenager.
He already knew about dealing with pressure from giving up a full-time kicking job and scholarship at one school to try it at another with no such guarantees.
So the Nebraska senior trotted out Saturday night, went through his usual routine and snuck a 24-yard field goal inside the uprights to cut Wyoming's lead to 7-3 in the first quarter.
Smith was awarded the Huskers' place-kicking duties for the season-opening game after a neck-and-neck battle with Mauro Bondi through fall camp. It's a job that he might have to re-earn every week, but the last thing Smith lacks is any willingness to compete for it.
Smith had made 18 of 23 field goals over three seasons at Western Illinois, including all 10 of his attempts as a junior at the FCS school.
Part of him, though, wanted to know what else might be out there.
“Sometimes you've got to roll the dice and take a chance at being great, rather than being content where you're at,” Smith said. “I know I've used that quote before, but I think it was really true to what I decided — to give up my scholarship to walk on at a bigger program and take a risk where they already had a scholarship guy who was very talented.
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“Yeah, long shot is kind of a way to put it, but something my parents always have talked to me about is chasing a dream.”
Smith said his father did it once upon a time. Bryan Smith sold insurance in Quincy, Ill., before deciding to sell motorcycles for a living, even though it was a leap of faith with Pat only a baby and two other sons at home.
That's why Smith laughed when asked Monday if he had his folks' blessing to pack up and leave WIU.
“If you knew my parents, you would know that they were more excited that I was taking a risk and going for it than settling for what I already had,” he said. “They were always big risk-takers. My dad was always a big risk-taker in business, and that's what made him successful. So they kind of passed that on to me.”
Smith started his college career at Missouri, where he suited up for the first time on the Thursday night when Nebraska rallied to beat the Tigers 27-12 back in 2009.
But the walk-on was down the depth chart and didn't feel like he was “where I needed to be as a kicker,” so Smith left Mizzou without knowing that the urge to be a Division I player would only be temporarily suppressed.
When Smith realized he had an opportunity to graduate from Western Illinois with a season of eligibility remaining, he started to look at some different programs, studying their football/academic balance as well as their kicking situation. He called his visit to NU an “eye-opening experience.”
It did mean taking on a challenge with Bondi that seemed to bring out the best in both. It meant no more hanging out at practice in tennis shoes, knowing he already had all three kicking jobs locked up.
Still, no regrets — especially when he got a chance like he did Saturday night.
“There were times when you think, 'Man, this is tough,' but at the same time that's why it's worth it,” Smith said.