Douglas High senior Chris Smalley signs his National Letter of Intent to play football next fall at the University of Nevada Reno. Pictured alongside Chris from left to right are his sister, Madi, mother, Wendy, and brother, Cole.
Photo by Carter Eckl.
Chris Smalley had been verbally committed to Nevada, Reno for several months.
After head coach Jay Norvell departed for Colorado State last week, Smalley could have changed his mind.
After all, that is rapidly becoming the landscape of collegiate sports.
However, the Douglas High senior spoke with Norvell and new head coach Ken Wilson to make sure his scholarship was still intact.
Once he was able to confirm that, Smalley followed through on his word and put pen to paper Wednesday afternoon signing his National Letter of Intent to play football next fall with the Wolf Pack.
For Smalley, realizing the dream of playing Division I college football means the world.
“Everything. It’s what I’ve been working toward when I started playing flag football at six years old,” said Smalley. “All the hard work I put in during quarantine and the summer days out there, it shows what hard work really does.”
His time on the football field as an upperclassman was cut short for the three-star prospect.
His junior season was limited to five games in the spring because of COVID-19 and his senior season lasted a single defensive possession and one carry on offense.
After breaking his arm against Galena on the first offensive snap, Smalley has rehabbed his way back onto the hardwood, where he has recently been cleared to play basketball again.
With his football dreams lined up directly in front of him, any previous doubts faded into the background.
“I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else,” said Smalley. “Before it was how do I know if I was going to make the right decision? Now, I know I 100 percent made the right decision and it feels awesome.”
Staying close to home played an important factor for the outgoing Tiger, especially when it came to family.
Smalley had never played a down of football without his father, Rod, on the sideline.
After his father passed away in January 2021, being able to continue having family watch him from the sidelines became especially important.
“I thought it was pretty important. My grandparents wanted to come watch me. My mom wanted to come watch me. I think it’s pretty cool that they can come watch me play.”
He’s heard from fellow Douglas Tiger alum, Reagan Roberson, who is wrapping up his final season with the Wolf Pack.
Now Smalley will get to don the blue and white jersey he’s been watching since he was a child.
With a new head coach, Smalley still thinks he will play on the defensive side of the ball, but he’s not picky.
“Wherever they want me,” said Smalley. “I don’t care.”
As of now, Smalley is deciding between majoring in kinesiology or criminal justice.
“It’s going to be so special. This has been my dream the whole time,” said Smalley. “I’m not going to stop there. I’m going to keep working hard.”
It was quite the community event Wednesday afternoon with quite a few members of the Smalley and Gansberg families coming to support the latest Wolf Pack commit.
Douglas High’s boys basketball team even stopped practice to show their appreciation for Smalley.
“To feel the support from everyone is awesome,” added Smalley.