By: Scott Stewart
Don Smart is an icon. His Jamaican roots are front and center anytime you interact with the 29-year-old and his laugh is contagious. His game, though, speaks for itself. A flashy attacker with flair and skill to match his pace, the “Indy Original” has poured every bit of himself into Lady Victory and the badge on the front, not just the name on the back.
On Saturday, October 21, Smart became the first-ever player to reach 100 appearances across all competitions against Puerto Rico FC. As he looks back to the beginning of his time in the Circle City, Smart can hardly believe he’s still around.
“When I first got this opportunity, this was an exciting thing to hop on. I heard a lot of buzz around the club moving forward and with them being new, I was happy to be a part of a future that was being built from grassroots to where it is now,” said Smart.
“That journey has been long. I’ve seen a lot of players, coaches, and different faces in and out, and to still be here, it’s crazy to me.”
Smart has been toeing around a soccer ball since he could walk. As a child in the neighborhoods of Arnett Garden (the jungle) in Kingston, Jamaica, it was all he did. If you told Smart that he would end up with Indy Eleven in Indianapolis, Indiana, though – let alone play 100 games for the club – his reaction?
“No way, man (laughs). There’s no way I would have believed any of that. I think that’s what makes this great. It’s something I might have wished for when I was younger, but to see it come through, in reality, is something that I can’t wrap my head around.”
Smart has played for just four clubs since joining USL PRO side F.C. New York in 2011 but hasn’t represented another club on the field since 2013. For this, he credits his family and friends. Smart could have bounced back and forth in a number of different directions but knows that the support he received from those close to him is what kept him grounded.
“A lot of respect and power goes out to those people. I have friends from when I first came to the States in middle school that are still my friends today. They have never misled me or misguided me. They put me in place. I was told as a kid ‘Listen, you’re the one that can make it out,’” he said.
“They keep me focused. My family is the same. My mom is behind me 100% in what I do in every part of my life. I actually have to talk to her before every game just to hear her voice. It inspires me to just see how proud she is of me. I want to thank every single person who’s been on this journey with me.”
Smart made his first appearance for Indy Eleven in the team’s inaugural match against Carolina on April 12, 2014. He scored his first goal for the club – also against Carolina – on July 12, 2014. Heading into the final game of his fourth year with the club against, you guessed it, Carolina, Smart feels there’s a lot to reflect on.
“For me, when it comes to emotion I don’t show much. People always ask me why I’m always only smiling and it’s because I just don’t show the other side that much. But it will mean a lot to me to close out the fourth season here,” Smart stated.
“I’ve accomplished something major here and, if this is my last game in this city, Indy will still always be with me forever. Let’s hope this isn’t the last game for me here. I would love to come back.”
Carrying the weight of a fan base on his back with the nickname “Mr. Indy,” he knows there will always be something to play for – this city and its fans.
“I don’t really like the limelight. People who know me know that. To get the name “Mr. Indy” is humbling, though,” said Smart. “My friends and I joke about it, but they also tell me that this is serious and I shouldn’t take this lightly. I have that name for a reason and I’m touched by it. I’m blessed to say I’m a part of history like this and this time in Indianapolis.”
The new tradition from the Brickyard Battalion is 100 beers for 100 appearances – with Smart being the first recipient. Moving forward, regardless of where he is, Smart will always keep Indianapolis close.
“Nothing [the BYB] does surprises me anymore. Those guys are crazy. I would have never thought I would receive 100 beers (laughs) but thankfully I have friends and teammates who can help me with those because I could never get through all of that by myself,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s still touching to see that those fans care. They care about soccer and me being here in the city. Like I said, they’ve been with me and will always be in my heart forever. That’s why it’s Indy Forever.”