12/06/06 — Soccer Player of the Year: Eastern Wayne's Dustin Smith

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Soccer Player of the Year: Eastern Wayne's Dustin Smith

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on December 6, 2006 1:47 PM

The best players aren't always the most vocal, they instead let their play do the talking.

That's the way Eastern Wayne senior midfielder Dustin Smith played and taught the game en route to becoming the 2006 News-Argus Soccer Player of the Year.

"If you can lead by example that's just as valuable, if not more valuable then hollering at everybody," said Eastern Wayne coach Jörg Wagner. "The younger players looked up to him. He was part of the glue that held everything together."

Smith would often stay after practice to help his teammates with whatever they needed and enforced team rules without trouble.

"His stature as a player allowed him to do that in a very effective way," said Wagner.

It was due to that leadership that Wagner selected Smith as captain at the start of the season.

"I appreciated the opportunity of being a leader for the team," said Smith.

While his team didn't have the success they had hoped for, finishing 8-11-2, Smith stayed positive talking about his team.

"We didn't have the best season, but we had a good team," he said. "We just didn't always show up when we needed to."

Leadership and Smith's play on the field, enabled him to come away with a list of honors at the conclusion of the season.

Smith was named the Eastern Carolina Conference Player of the Year, was a two-time, All-ECC selection, was Eastern Wayne's Wendy's Heisman award winner and the state nominee.

Despite all the success, Smith has remained humble.

"I am really blessed," he said. "I couldn't have done it by myself so I try to look at the big picture, not just what I have done."

Long before Smith could even dream of being selected for such honors he watched his two older brothers, Glenn and especially Andrew, on the soccer field at Eastern Wayne.

Dustin would sit in the stands and cheer on Andrew when he was in middle school and consistently got advice from his older sibling.

"Parents are there, but they don't really understand since they haven't been on the field," said Smith, who began playing the game when he was 4 years old. "So to have them, who have been on the field, and to talk to them at the end of games is a very valuable thing."

Smith learned a lot from those discussions and as his knowledge of the game grew so did his talent.

During his freshman year, Dustin made the varsity team. It gave him the chance to play with Andrew.

"It was pretty cool to get the opportunity to play with him," said Smith.

Wagner wasn't surprised to see Smith's jump to the varsity level.

"When I watched a middle school game, he was a scrawny kid, but you could see he was always looking to make a play that was intelligent," said Wagner. "I really liked that about him right from the start.

"He has extraordinary speed with the ball and a rocket for a shot. That was the main reason we put him on varsity."

Smith started during his first year and was a key contributor right away, a rare feat for a freshman.

After his brother graduated, Dustin began to make a name for himself.

"It seems that if you have brothers or sisters ahead of you that play for (Eastern Wayne) it seems when these kids come in they have extra motivation," said Wagner. "They want to do a little more than their brothers."

The extra drive Smith seemed to posses allowed him to post some eye-popping stats.

He finished 2006 with seven goals and 13 assists, tying the single season assist record. Over his four-year career, Dustin accumulated 20 goals and 35 assists, the second most assists in school history. He finished as the career as the leading scorer from the midfield position for the Warriors.

The assist numbers really tells the story of the type of player Smith is.

"He realizes and truly appreciates the contributions of his teammates," said Wagner. "He would just as well take the assist as opposed to take the shot. If he sees a teammate in better position, he will find a way to get him the ball. You can tell he's looking for his teammates."

Wagner always had the utmost confidence in Smith doing the right thing at the right time, whether it would be to take the shot or pass it off.

"He's a student of the game. He does the right thing at the right time 99 percent of the time."

Smith is hoping those natural instincts will allow him to play soccer at the next level. He wants to continue to play for one of the schools he's applied to, North Carolina and N.C. State.

"I'm going to stay in shape during the offseason and just see if I can walk-on anywhere," said Smith. "I would enjoy the opportunity to keep playing."

Depending on the needs of the team, Wagner thinks that could be a realistic goal for Dustin.

"You never know, it's a tall task to play in the ACC," said Wagner. "It's probably the best league in the country. There's a definite possibility there."

Wagner must now face the challenge of life without Smith for the upcoming season, hoping that the underclassmen learned from the talented senior.

"We will sorely miss him next season. I wish we had another year with him. I hope our younger kids try to aspire to play like he has."