Former Yale football player who overcame huge obstacles, Brett Smith, cited for spirit and courage

Brett Smith ’12 received the Yale Athletics Department's Amanda Walton Award for 2012 at Class Day exercises Sunday afternoon as part of Commencement Weekend. The award is presented to an outstanding student-athlete who has excelled in competition or who has shown spirit and courage in transcending unforeseen challenges.

Smith has more than shown spirit and courage in overcoming great obstacles since a January, 2003, car accident on I-95 in Connecticut changed his life. Then a freshman on the Yale football team, Smith was traveling back with some other student-athletes from New York City when he was seriously injured. Doctors told him and his parents he would never graduate, but Smith proved them wrong nine years later.

The former Nebraska high school football quarterback, who broke almost every bone in his face and suffered traumatic brain injury, was in a coma for more than a month and he could not walk or talk for two months.

A year after the accident, he enrolled in the first of two schools as he attempted to earn credits to be re-admitted to Yale.

“I have a stubborn streak — I think it’s hereditary,” Smith said to a Yale Daily News reporter recently. “I told myself if I’m going to do something, I’m gonna do it.”

Smith, originally in the class of 2006, returned to Yale in 2008, changed his major from biology to history and focused his time on school work, fitness and his role as a deacon at the university church.

His post-graduate plan is to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. He will go for an additional bachelor’s degree in physiology at the University of Wyoming and then apply for medical school.