From roles in retail and sales to sports journalism, Greg Smith, ’10, found managing moments of transition key to gaining a competitive advantage. With one foot in the corporate world, he freelanced for numerous online publications, reporting on events like the Rose Bowl and Bud Crawford's championship boxing matches, and began covering the Huskers in 2013. After a successful stint as a sports radio co-host and producer for ESPN 1480 KLMS in Lincoln, Nebraska, he chose to focus on football full-time as a recruiting analyst for Hail Varsity.
As a football recruiting analyst, Smith almost exclusively reports on prospective Husker football players through HailVarsity.com and its magazine. He works year-round building relationships with high school students and their coaches and parents.
“It’s important to talk to college prospects about more than football. It can be helpful for them to understand that playing football is just one part of their decision and the academic piece is worth looking into as well,” Smith said.
When describing his own style as an analyst, Smith shared the importance of getting to know everyone involved in the recruiting process.
“There is a big focus on the recruit – and rightfully so – but it’s new and exciting for the parents too. So, I ask about their perspective as well,” Smith shared. “It leads to a bigger picture view of the prospect.”
His interest in sports started as a child when his father and a friend’s dad coached his baseball, basketball and football teams.
“Sports were a big deal in my family and a way for all of us to be together. A lot of my good memories are centered around sports, but I never thought I’d get into sports journalism,” said Smith.
As a high school senior from Chicago, he toured the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus with his father, a state’s attorney who later became a federal judge.
“I just really liked everything about Nebraska from the beginning. After I visited, my dad encouraged me to go back and see what it was like by myself. I attended a multicultural overnight event where minority students were invited to spend the night on campus. We were assigned a host and everything about the experience was just great,” Smith said.
When Smith enrolled at Nebraska, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and chose pre-law. He noted how he underestimated the amount of dedication, self-motivation and accountability needed when adjusting to college.
“My party-to-class ratio was very off balance my first semester. It caused me to have to sit down with my family and have a realistic talk about my future and getting back on track,” he said. “As much as my parents would say, ‘You need to do X, Y and Z and there are resources to help you,’ I had to figure out all of that on my own.”
He did and switched his major to marketing with assistance from Mark Davis, academic advisor in Business Advising and Student Engagement.
“I choose marketing because I wanted a major that would give me transferable skills in a lot of different areas. The skills I learned in marketing class helped set me up for a wide range of careers,” Smith said. “That’s exactly what it did for me.”
When taking a Retailing Management (MRKT 425) course taught by Rob Simon, associate professor of practice in marketing, Smith not only found a future career but also encouragement. Simon “always believed in what I could do” and Smith shared how that made class more fun.
“Greg was an engaged and motivated student who really got involved in my retailing course. I wish I had more students like him,” said Simon, an associate professor of practice in marketing. “I recruited him for our Union Pacific special projects class based on his work. and he was one of the top students in that class. His team also won several of the course’s competitions.”
Smith connected with a guest speaker from Target in one of his marketing classes, which led to a local store executive internship and a full-time position as an executive team leader in Chicago after graduation. He led multiple stores’ logistics teams to help improve their overall performance.
“After a few years at Target, I had designs of working in sports media and kind of dipped my toes in the water through sports blogging and going on podcasts for people I met through social media. I started doing more and more on the side, so essentially it was kind of strategic though I wanted to make sure that I could actually have a career in it before leaving the corporate world,” said Smith.
Hired for a sales position at National Research Corporation, Smith returned to Lincoln, in 2013. He also landed a side gig as senior writer and lead college football writer for BlackSportsOnline, a media network that offers sports and sports entertainment news from a different perspective. He reported on college football and baseball and even boxing. There he also received his first credential to cover Nebraska football.
“That was a process because at that point in 2013, Nebraska was not credentialing online publications. Like it just was not happening. It took me a couple seasons to even get my foot in the door. My whole career in sports media has been a process of just kind of stacking one thing on top of the other,” he said.
A year later, he became a digital content programmer for FoxSports.com. He created consistent Big Ten on-field and recruiting content and built daily news roundup newsletters.
That turned into a radio co-host and producer role at ESPN 1480 KLMS in Lincoln. He joined the afternoon show called Necessary Roughness, and together with his co-host Nick Gregath, they achieved the highest ratings in the show’s five-year history. It led to them co-hosting a new show, Gregath and Smith, in the coveted morning time slot on the same station. The duo also hosted Husker football and basketball pre-game shows.
Smith signed onto Hail Varsity officially in the summer of 2017. The opportunity brought his marketing and sports media background together into one full-time position. He writes a daily Recruiting Notebook column and hosts a weekly Hail Varsity podcast called the Straight Up Breakdown, where he brings the honest breakdown of what is happening in the world of sports. The Hail Varsity magazines provide opportunity for feature writing and to tell untold stories of Husker student-athletes.
“I enjoy what I do immensely. My marketing major prepared me to take opportunities along my zig-zag career path, and that is why I have visited with student organizations like the Sports Business Association in the past,” he said. "Because of my experience committing to academics after some difficulty, I also like to talk to recruits about academics and their campus visits. I ask them if they have a major in mind and what they thought about seeing Hawks Hall on their tour.”
When asked about the players to watch at the 2022 Huskers Spring Game, Smith seamlessly transitioned into sports media mode.
“Everyone is going to want to see how the quarterbacks do in the spring game. The presumed starter Casey Thompson will get a lot of attention and could make a big impact,” he said. “The player I will be looking forward to seeing the most is running back Anthony Grant. There has been a lot of good talk about him behind the scenes, and he just keeps popping up in highlight videos the team releases.”
To learn more about the marketing major, visit: https://business.unl.edu/marketingmajor. Listen to Smith’s podcast here.
Published: April 4, 2022