June 19th, 2020
Bethel football legend Ed Smith, Orlando, Fla., has been nominated for induction into the National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Football Hall of Fame for 2021.
Smith, a 1987 Bethel graduate originally from De Leon Springs, Fla., is considered one of the greatest student-athletes ever to put on the helmet and shoulder pads as a Thresher.
He played wide receiver 1983-86 and was part of a squad that turned in an overall record of 29-8 over four seasons.
The Threshers’ best season during Smith’s career came in 1984, when Bethel went undefeated during the regular season, to the tune of a 9-0 record.
Bethel finished the regular season as the third-ranked team in the NAIA, captured the first Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in program history, and clinched a spot in the NAIA playoffs.
Smith was named to the NAIA All-American 1st Team in 1985, after a season in which he set program records for receptions (75) and receiving yards (1,232).
Both these seasonal records, as well as the 18 touchdowns he pulled in during 1984, still stand as the program bests for the Threshers. His 18 touchdown receptions are currently the fifth-most in KCAC history.
Smith ended his career at Bethel in 1986 as the all-time career leader in receptions (195), touchdowns (47) and receiving yards (3,337). As of the end of the 2019 season, his marks for total touchdowns and receiving yards are still Thresher program records.
No stranger to “halls of fame,” Smith was part of the inaugural class for the Bethel Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999, after previously being inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1992.
This year’s ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame includes a total of 177 players, 99 of whom are included in the divisional category where Smith is eligible. The other 78 nominees come from the Football Bowl Subdivision.
To be eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame, nominees must have been named a 1st-Team All-American at least once in their respective division.
Steve Hatchell, president and CEO of the NFF, estimates there are only 1,500 former players eligible with these criteria out of the 5.4 million who have played college football starting in 1869.
“Being in today’s elite group means an individual is truly among the greatest to have ever played the game, and we look forward to announcing the 2021 College Football Hall of Fame class presented by [corporate sponsor] ETT early next year,” Hatchell said.
Smith is one of only 13 NAIA candidates on this year’s ballot, and the only hailing from the KCAC. The NFF voting members (more than 12,000 total) will have until July 7 to cast their ballots, with the official release of the Class of 2021 coming at a later date.
To see the NFF official release with all of this year’s nominees, click here.
Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in Washington Monthly, Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; stands at #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities listed by lendEDU as “Best for Financial Aid”; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu
In sports, Bethel competes in the 13-member KCAC and the NAIA. See bethelthreshers.com Josh Booth