Ryan Smith Hung Up His Cleats To Follow In His Father’s Foot Steps

Written by: Brady Drake

During his time at North Dakota State, Ryan Smith was as explosive as they came. He holds school records for punt returns (82) and punt return yards (945) and tied the record for longest kickoff return for a touchdown in program history (100). The Wahpeton native also put up strong receiving numbers during his collegiate career. He is currently 10th all-time in receiving yards (1783) and 7th all-time in receptions (147).

After graduating, Smith continued his football career in the Canadian Football League, spending two seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and one with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Since 2017 Smith has been back in Wahpeton working for Edward Jones.

When did you realize you wanted to get into financial advising?

By the end of my freshman year of college, I knew I wanted to do some sort of financial advising. In my hometown, Wahpeton, my dad has been an advisor for about 40 years now with Edward Jones, so I always knew there would be an opportunity to work as a financial advisor. However, I didn’t realize how much I missed home until after my freshman year of college. After that realization, I knew I wanted to come back.

When you retired from the CFL in 2017, I think it seemed pretty sudden to a lot of people given the success that you were having up there. Was returning home the driving factor behind your retirement?

One of the main reasons I retired was the hits to the head and the injuries started to add up for me. During my second year in the CFL, I had a really bad concussion that kind of scared me a little bit. I knew that if I wanted to raise kids and be able to remember my name when by the time I was 50, I needed to do something different. I love football. I love the game. I love what it has brought to me. It has taught me a lot of things about life, but there’s more out there. As soon as I retired, I started the hiring process with Edward Jones.

So can you talk me through what that transition was like? Obviously, playing football and working a desk job are two completely different things.

Right away, the transition was a little tough. You go from a locker room where you’re around your teammates all the time, you’re around a whole bunch of people and you can kind of thrive off that energy. In the office, I’m around my dad and my dad’s assistant. So, it was a little challenging at first, but I’m very fortunate to have worked with my dad. He has been a great help to me and a great mentor to me as far as helping me realize what I need to do to be successful at this business.

Can you tell me a little more about some of those struggles you had early on?

Football is obviously different than the real world. With football, you wake up in the morning and your schedule is set for you. You know what lifts you’re going to do in the morning. You know when you’re going to watch film, go to meetings and go to practice. Then, you watch more film and do recovery stuff and by the time you get home, your day is pretty much wrapped up.

It took me a while to transition that into a business room. I realized I needed to do the same sort of thing in business, but I needed to be the one doing it. Now, I take time to plan out my day ahead of time.

What does that plan look like for you on a typical day?

I wake up at 6:15 a.m. in the morning, have a cup of coffee when I wake up and take my dog to my parent’s place. I like to do the same thing every day. I get to the office around 7:45 a.m. and start to make a call list. Then, I look at who I have appointments with that day. From there, I’m usually on the phone from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and then from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’m meeting with people for appointments. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., I catch up on the stuff that I missed during those appointments.

As long as you can have that oriented process in your business, I think it makes life a lot easier.

In addition to that, what advice do you have for other athletes that are looking to transition to the real world?

No matter what level you are transitioning from, there’s going to be a transition period. Even though the real world is different from any college or high school sport, there are so many things that you can take from your sport that will help you in the business world. The discipline is going to be important. Trying to stick to a schedule is going to be important. It’s going to be tough right away, but if you just try to get better every single day, you will be successful. Hard work always pays off.

When you hear people talk about the success of NDSU football, they talk a lot about the culture. How do you try to contribute to the culture at Edward Jones?

The culture here is actually a reason I wanted to be a part of Edward Jones. Everyone is here to help everybody at Edward Jones. I got to learn from my dad here and at NDSU you rely so much on the older generation to ingrain the culture into the younger generation of recruits, freshmen and sophomores. You don’t learn a culture right away, it has to be taught.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.