Former Ball State football players return to campus, react to 2017 recruiting class

Kaiti Sullivan // DN
Kaiti Sullivan // DN

Former Ball State football teammates quarterback Keith Wenning and wide receiver Jamill Smith like to resort to old ways.

One day after National Signing Day, the pair ran routes on the turf field in the Jo Ann Gora Student Recreation and Wellness Center with some of the current Cardinals roster.

Ball State signed 27 members for the 2017 recruiting class, but Wenning and Smith know the important work comes after signing day.

"Hopefully they come in and do what they got to do," Smith said. "Signing day is just signing day and we know that. We’ve seen many people come in here and get signed and not do anything, so it's about putting in the work and coming in here and getting better. With the coaches here, they make it easy.”

Wenning is now on the New York Giants' practice squad, but he came into Ball State as an unranked recruit with a scholarship in 2010. Smith walked on to the team a year earlier and earned scholarship in his time with the program. 

Wenning said Smith is a prime example of the work the new recruits will have to put in.

"[Smith] knows football," Wenning said. "So for me coming in, and him already being here a year, it was great to work with him and some of the older guys who might not have been the best receivers, but they played hard and were students of the game."

Smith, who lives in Muncie during the offseason, is coming off his best season in his three-year career in the Canadian Football League as a wide receiver and kick returner. His team, the Ottawa Redblacks, won the 2016 Grey Cup (CFL championship) in overtime against the Calgary Stampeders.

"We actually completed our goal," Smith said. "It was an amazing experience to actually go there and finish out."

Smith will be a free agent for the first time on Feb. 14, which is why he came back to the Rec Center.

"Bigger and better goals," Smith said of what's to come for himself. "Just trying to get better each day. We’ve been doing this, coming out here working and just trying to get to my goal either CFL or NFL, just chasing my dream.”

Working out in the Rec Center has become an annual event for Wenning and Smith.

One former teammate was missing in the annual off season workout however — Willie Snead. The New Orleans Saints wide receiver attended the workout last year, but couldn't make this year's workout. Wenning said he still keeps in touch with Snead and fellow Saints practice squad member Jordan Williams, another former Cardinal.

"We're always trying to look out for each other and l put some work in because we all got the same goals," Wenning said.

Neither Wenning or Smith are certain where the future will take them. But the friends are just looking for opportunities and chances to prove themselves.

"Everybody's trying to make it big," Wenning said. "Any time we can help each other out and work together, it's great.”


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