Features | 2/7/2013 1:57:24 PM | Alex Beilman
| Billy Dee Smith (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
It’s been a long road back for Buffalo Bandits defender Billy Dee Smith to get back to playing the sport that he loves.
In summer of 2010, Smith tore his ACL while playing for team Canada in the World Games in London, England.
After a year of recovery and rehab, Smith discovered that he had some cartilage missing from his right knee during the following NLL season and decided to battle through that issue.
Then, at the end of last season, Smith was given a two-game suspension for an incident in the final game of the season. After sitting out for two games, he sustained a high ankle sprain and missed another game.
Smith was finally able to make his return in what would turn into a last-minute win for the Bandits in a game against the Philadelphia Wings. He couldn’t be happier to be returning to action in full health.
“It was a long time coming,” Smith said. “It was a two-year long road to where my body is 100 percent again. It was good to help the team and anchor the team defense.”
The biggest challenge for Smith was literally getting back up to speed. Smith has always been counted on to defend against the opponents top players, and he wasn’t always able to do that in his two-year struggle with injuries.
“I feel fast again, which for a while I felt like I was trying too hard to be fast,” Smith said. “The body feels good, and that feels good.”
Smith has become known as a competitor and an aggressive player. Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour believes that gives the team a huge advantage.
“Billy is a great one-on-one defender. He’s very physical,” Kilgour said. “We’re very happy to have him back. When Billy covers you… you just see a lot of guys that don’t want to carry the ball against Billy and it gives you a huge psychological when he’s out there.”
“I try to hit everybody,” Smith said. “I’m a physical player and that’s the way I’ve always prided myself on playing. I try to be physical on ball.”
As with any athlete battling injury, the frustration was mounting for Smith. However, thanks to his constant drive and determination, he never once thought of throwing in the towel.
“There was a ton of frustration. I’m not very good with patience,” Smith said. “I rehabbed really well, which was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I just kept plugging along and I knew it was just a matter of time.”
One thing Smith has learned from the experience is that it is important to let the body heal completely from injury, despite his constant desire to play.
“There’s so much lacrosse to be played. Sometimes you just have to sit even when you want to play,” Smith said.
“When he’s in the lineup, he brings a different factor to the team,” Kilgour said. “The matchup he brings and the way he plays, a lot of guys don’t like playing against him.”
“It’s been good to get back to battling with the guys,” Smith said. “It felt great to get back out on the floor. I’m just looking to contribute to my team and giving them the best chance to win out there.”