QB Brett Smith is finding his happiness at Wyoming

Brett Smith admits he was devastated when his home-state Oregon
Ducks showed no interest in recruiting him.

Wyoming’s junior quarterback clearly has gotten over it.

Smith will begin his third year as the starter when the Cowboys
open at No. 18 Nebraska on Saturday night. If he’s as productive
this season as he was in the past two, he’ll be the school’s
all-time total offense leader by December.

He’ll also have continued to raise his NFL stock.

”Once I got here and played a little bit,” he said, ”kind of
the animosity toward all the schools that didn’t recruit me turned
into me falling in love with this state and this school and wanting
to play for this fan base and playing because I love the
game.”

The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Smith is right at home in coach Dave
Christensen’s spread offense. He’s a pure passer who has the
ability to run when a play breaks down.

He threw for 27 touchdowns against six interceptions last
season, averaged 308 yards a game in total offense and led the
Mountain West Conference in passing efficiency and points
responsible for. He’ll go into the Nebraska game with 174
consecutive pass attempts without an interception, tied with
Central Florida’s Blake Bortles for the NCAA’s longest active
streak.

Smith won’t sneak up on the Cornhuskers. He threw for 166 yards
and two touchdowns in a 38-14 loss in Laramie, Wyo., in 2011.

”I walked away from that thoroughly impressed,” Nebraska
defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. ”I thought he was a
tough, gritty competitor. He threw the ball well and was tougher to
tackle than he looks like he would be. So he’s certainly going to
present some challenges.”

For all his personal success, Smith is only 12-11 as the
starter. He missed two games last season, both losses, because of
concussions. Wyoming was 4-8 after going 8-5 with a bowl loss in
2011.

”I know that we have the capability of winning,” Smith said.
”Now it comes down to us executing and making sure we’re mentally
sharp each game. I want to win, go to a bowl game and win it. Those
are the personal goals I have every year. I want to start winning
again.”

Smith’s main targets are Robert Herron and Dominic Rufran.
Herron, who missed four games because of injury, had 31 catches for
657 yards and, like Smith, is drawing interest from pro scouts.

”I have a ton of confidence in the guys around me,” Smith
said. ”We have some playmakers at receiver. I’ve been able to have
some time back in the pocket provided by the big boys.”

Smith’s preparation for the season included a trip to the
Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana for the second straight year
and workout sessions with former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia in
California.

Playing at Nebraska will be comparable to the environment for
last year’s opener at Texas, where a crowd of 101,000 watched the
Cowboys lose 37-17 after leading until the middle of the second
quarter. A school-record crowd of more than 90,000 is expected at
the newly expanded Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

”It’s going to be a ton of fun to play in an atmosphere like
that,” Smith said. ”A big reason I play college football is to
compete with the best.”

Smith didn’t know if he would have that opportunity when he was
a high school senior in Salem, Ore. He played in the largest class
of schools and was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, but he
was deemed a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Smith had grown up hoping to go to Oregon, where his father,
Kevin, played football but did not letter. Failing that, Smith
wanted to go to Oregon State.

It was a no-go for both places.

”It was one of the hardest things in my life,” Smith said.
”Basically, the thing I got was them telling me I’m not good
enough to live my dream. That was tough going through at 18 years
old. A lot of thoughts went into my head, like, `Should I even be
playing ball?’ and `Are they right?’ ”

Smith was left to choose among scholarship offers from Wyoming,
San Jose State, New Mexico State, Portland State and Eastern
Washington.

He said Wyoming was the first school to offer, so he
accepted.

”When I got an opportunity to play out here, I embraced it,”
he said. ”I feel like God put me here, and I’ve gone a million
miles per hour toward achieving my dream and I’m living it out
right now.”