Former Lake Highlands football player Wade Smith has started 25 games in the NFL. He is now a backup offensive lineman and special teams player for the Kansas City Chiefs, who will take on the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday at noon on Fox (Ch. 4).
Smith was part of the 1998 team that was just 5-5 in the regular season but went on a magical run to the state semifinals.
He was a tight end at LH and during his first two college seasons at Memphis, but a coaching change necessitated a move to the offensive line. That move resulted in Smith being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He spent three years with the Dolphins, another two with the New York Jets and is now in his second season with the Chiefs. He has started at tackle, guard and center during his NFL career.
Smith still lives in the Dallas area during the off-season and, as you’ll see in this Q&A with the Advocate, he still keeps up with the Wildcats.

Q: You’re playing the Cowboys this week. Is it still exciting to play your hometown team?
A: Not anymore. Early in my career, I played against them my rookie year on Thanksgiving and we beat them. That was a good Thanksgiving. Now it’s not that big of a deal.

Q: You were part of the 1998 team that had that unlikely run through the playoffs. So you’re a 1999 graduate?
A: Best class in Lake Highlands history. Let me change that – the 1982 class won a state championship. I’ll give them that.

We started off the season 0-4. We started off slow and had a lot of injuries, but we turned it on when it mattered. We lost to Cedric Benson and that machine they had going out there [at Midland Lee] and we came up short.

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Q: What’s your favorite memory of that playoff run?
A: Definitely the Lufkin game, kicking a field goal to win the game. Not many people gave us a chance to win any of the games in the playoffs. We felt like we were a lot better team than our record showed. We had talent on that team, we just came up short in the state semifinals.
Against Lufkin, we played that game basically behind enemy lines at Stephen F. Austin, since it was so close to Lufkin.  Our crowd was outnumbered like 6-1, but we went in there and won the game.

Q: Do you ever get back to Lake Highlands?
A: I have a house in the Dallas area. Actually, a lot of times me and a lot of my teammates from high school, we work out at the rec center across the high school. They have a flag football team and I help them coach a couple of times. I put my two cents in there.

Q: You’re now in a backup role with the Chiefs. How is that?
A: Right now I’m the first guy in if anybody gets injured. And I’m on special teams. Last year I started half the year.
We’re 0-4 but we’re in a transition stage. We’re trying to get better every week. We have the ability to play better than we’ve played.

Q: Did coming from Lake Highlands help you get into pro football?
A: Lake Highlands is a football factory. There’s guys that throughout my travels, going to different teams, that know all about Lake Highlands. Marcus Stiggers is a legend in Texas high school football, but he’s known all over.
This is my seventh year in the league. It’s definitely a blessing. It’s hard work paying off.

Q: Do you still keep up with the Wildcats?
A: I’m glad to see LH getting back on track to where it was. We lost a close one to Skyline a couple of weeks ago, but we’re competing.
It’s a good thing to check the newspapers and talk to people back at the house to see that Lake Highlands is doing good again.

Once you’re a Wildcat, you’re a Wildcat. Growing up, the biggest thing wasn’t that you wanted to play college football. You wanted to be a Wildcat.
Phil Dawson, Matt Stover, Merton Hanks, we wanted try to be like those guys.

We kind of lost that for a little while, but it’s good to see it coming back. The community really
rallies around the high school.

I definitely keep in touch. Anything Lake Highlands related, I’m always interested and willing to help out.

Q: How did the community help the football team when you were at LH?
A: The parents kind of raised the football team as a community. I had my mom, but I also had second and third moms. My mom worked all the time. Just to have parents who might give you a ride to school, or make lunch for you before the game so you’re not starving. We used to go over to a teammate’s house the night before the game. It builds a huge team atmosphere.

Q: What schools did you attend in Lake Highlands? Are you a Forest Meadow guy?
A: Wallace Elementary and Lake Highlands Junior High.
I’m definitely not a Forest Meadow guy. Even though some of my best friends went to Forest Meadow, we still have a little bit of a rivalry. They’re all right as long as they don’t wear that purple.