LARAMIE -- Brett Smith decided it was time to chase his dream.
Wyoming's junior quarterback will forego his final season at Wyoming and enter the NFL Draft, Smith confirmed on Friday evening. He informed Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman of his decision late Friday afternoon.
“It was extremely tough, that’s for sure. But I just felt like with the entire situation of things, I made a decision that being in the NFL was my absolute dream, and I just wanted to pursue it," Smith told the Star-Tribune. "That was basically all that went into this decision. You look at a lot of things, but what it came down to was that I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming an NFL quarterback and I didn’t want to do anything else but that.”
Smith said that he thought about this decision for the entirety of his winter break spent at home in West Salem, Ore. In the end, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to accomplish a lifelong goal of playing quarterback in the NFL.
With Wyoming's recent coaching change, Smith acknowledged that it would be easy for outsiders to assume that the firing of head coach Dave Christensen and the subsequent hiring of Craig Bohl weighed heavily in his decision to leave.
But he stressed that the coaching change had absolutely nothing to do with his early departure from Laramie.
“Being completely honest, that had no effect whatsoever," Smith said. "And I know, looking from the outside in, a lot of people might come to that conclusion. But Coach Bohl was such a great guy and such a stand-up guy, and I met with him quite a few times before I left.
"I let him know my situation and what I was thinking about, and he was so supportive from the first time I talked to him -- and I talked to him quite a few times. He came out to Oregon, came to my hometown. We talked about it, and he understood the position I was in. The offensive coordinator, Brent Vigen, understood the position I was in.
"When I told Coach Bohl, he was totally supportive and he understood. It’s sad, because that’s a guy that sometime in my career I wish I could’ve played for.”
Both Bohl and Vigen traveled to Oregon and Washington the weekend of Dec. 21 and 22 to visit Smith and redshirt sophomore quarterback Jason Thompson, who is next in line to become the Cowboys' starting quarterback.
During his three-year career at Wyoming, Smith completed 62 percent of his passes for 8,834 yards and 76 touchdowns. He also ran for 1,531 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was 17-20 as a starter and 0-1 in bowl games. The junior holds Wyoming's record for total offense and the Mountain West record for total yards in a game (640).
Despite all the numbers, though, Smith said the people he met during his time at Wyoming is what he'll remember the most.
“I have a lot of great memories, and not just football. I met a lot of great people, and just with everything that’s gone on behind the scenes as well outside of sports. It’s been a lot of fun," Smith said. "It’s been a great college experience for me, and obviously there has been some games that I’ll never forget, and I’ll never forget the fans.
"I’m just really happy about the relationships I’ve made and the guys that I’ve played with. I wouldn’t have rather had anybody else.”
Looking forward, Smith said he has not started the process of training and preparing for the 2014 NFL Draft. He will soon begin talking to agents, and he hopes to find a place to train in the next two days.
And while Smith has not graduated from Wyoming, he vowed to complete that challenge sometime in the future as well.
“My main focus is just trying to get to the next level. That’s hard enough in itself. But at some point I’m going to go back and get my degree," Smith said. "I made a promise to my dad.”
Burman, after receiving the news of Smith's departure, wished the junior quarterback well in a university release.
“We wish Brett (Smith) and his family the best as he chases his dream to play at the NFL level,” Burman said. “Brett has been a great ambassador for our athletics department, our university and the state of Wyoming during his time as a Cowboy. We will miss him, and I know Wyoming fans and his teammates will miss him.
"When he contacted me late this afternoon, he said after talking with his family he felt the time was right for him to pursue a professional career. I thanked him for letting us know as soon as he had made his decision.”
The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Smith admitted that he has no idea when and where he will go in the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8-10. As long as he makes an NFL roster, though, it will be worth it.
“I just want an opportunity. I just want to go somewhere," Smith said. "I just want to be an NFL quarterback and try to be a good one. And whatever team, that doesn’t matter.”