Before every game, Grant Smith and Evan Smith run over to the end zone, go down on one knee, and say a Hail Mary.
No, not the football play where you heave a jump ball down field to try to score a last-second touchdown, but a prayer. The two Seymour seniors grew up catholic, so they share that moment together before kickoff.
After saying the Hail Mary, the brothers will take the field, playing side by side in the linebacking core for the first time consistently in high school, and they will lead the Owls’ defense.
Every snap, Grant will call out the play, the defensive back’s will call out the coverage, Evan will call out the front and Grant will call out any blitzes.
Evan and Grant are Seymour’s top two tacklers this season, and they’ve helped the Owls capture a share of the Hoosier Hills Conference title for the first time since 2001, sharing the conference crown with Bedford North Lawrence.
Seymour clinched the title on Oct. 7 after dominating New Albany 49-7.
Evan admits the game was, dare he say, boring? Evan and the defense just kept forcing three and outs to get off the field.
“It was exciting,” he said on winning the HHC. “They only scored seven points, which was great.”
The New Albany game was the first game Grant missed this fall after spraining his ankle and Achilles five plays into the Jennings County game the week before.
But still, Grant was able to celebrate from the sideline.
“It was great,” he said. “I was on the sideline unfortunately, but me and the sideline, we got hype. We got really excited, it was fun to watch.”
It was even better that it happened on the same field where Seymour suffered a heartbreaking loss in the sectional title game in 2021. New Albany scored a go-ahead touchdown with under 10 seconds to play to top the Owls and end their season.
“Losing the sectional championship was so heartbreaking,” Evan said. “Everything I did in the offseason, just sprinting, running, weightlifting, practice, I was just thinking about those last seven seconds. It was a horrible taste in my mouth all offseason, and it got me going.”
It’s what helped propel the Owls into this season, knowing they’re capable of competing in the conference and winning a sectional.
Even though Seymour had high hopes for this season, it didn’t get off to the best start. Seymour lost week one to Greenwood 35-7 in a game where the Owls just didn’t look right.
They followed that up with a thrilling 31-28 victory over Jeffersonville that saw Grant make the game-winning sack.
“After Greenwood, we knew we were better than how we played,” Grant said. “We came into practice before Jeffersonville fired up.”
The team suffered another setback at Columbus East the next week, but then fired off five-straight wins to clinch the conference. Four of Seymour’s six wins came down to the wire.
“It shows our character,” Grant said.
The two brothers aren’t just two studs on Seymour’s defense, but they also contribute to the team in other areas.
Grant snaps the ball for Seymour on special teams, and Evan occasionally gets put in on offense to either help block or run the ball in short-yardage situations.
Last week against Bloomington South, Evan took it upon himself to run a fake punt and power the ball up the middle to pick up a first down. Their versatility is something they take a lot of pride in.
“When they put me in to block, I love it,” Evan said.
“I think we both pride ourselves on giving it your all no matter what you’re doing,” Grant added.
As good as the two have been on the field together, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but they’re brothers, so what do you expect?
Grant has a loud, goofy personality while Evan is more of an all-business approach, so the two can occasionally get under each other’s skin.
“On the field, it’s definitely like ‘Grant, shut up.’ Or I’ll get upset with him if he doesn’t do the right thing,” Evan said. “Same thing at home, whether he doesn’t wake up on time or take the dog out. At the end of the day, I love him, but he can get so loud and obnoxious.”
Does Grant ever instigate Evan?
“No, never on purpose,” Grant sarcastically said.
Grant was born two minutes earlier than Evan.
“You’d never think it,” Evan slyly slid in.
But the two have been by each other every step of the way, whether it was spending weeks in the NICU because they were born prematurely or lining up together on Seymour’s defense and leading the team, they’ve always had each other’s back.
They have plenty of support up in the stands as well. Every game, “Smith Fan Club” shirts can be spotted in the crowd with Evan’s No. 34 and Grant’s No. 17 on them.
“It shows how we were raised — family first,” Grant said. “It’s awesome because some people don’t have that. We’re very lucky and fortunate to have such a loving and supportive family.”
Evan is one of the leaders on the team, and as a captain, he takes having a voice in the locker room very seriously.
“As a senior, you have a lot of young guys that look up to you,” Evan said. “I just love that, and when I’m gone, I know people are going to be like ‘What would E. Smith do?’ And that’s awesome.”
That’s how their teammates refer to them — E. Smith and G. Smith.
Evan plans to continue his football career in college and is weighing his options between a couple schools, and after he’s done playing he wants to coach the game in some way. Grant, who also swims at Seymour, is contemplating whether he wants to join the Navy or pursue a career in welding.
But first, the two seniors have a sectional game to focus on, which is Oct. 28 at Bloomington North. Grant, despite missing the last two games, said he’ll be back for this game.
“It’s scary being a senior,” Grant said. “That’s why we have to keep fighting. I don’t want to lose.”
Evan said he’s preparing this week like Seymour has a game on Friday. Even though it’s an off week, Evan doesn’t want to take the week off, so that when next week arrives, he’ll be ready to go.
No matter what takes place in the postseason, one thing is for certain: E. Smith and G. Smith will be lined up side by side, giving everything they have, because that’s all the brothers know.