After sprinting to glory, four-star cornerback Smith Snowden is ready to join Utah football teammates

The Skyridge senior won the Class 6A 100-meter title at the state track and field championships.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skyridge's Smith Snowden (3) celebrates tackling Corner Canyon's Isaac Wilson (1) with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, effectively ending the game, as Corner Canyon faces Skyridge in the 6A high school football championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.

Provo • If there is one detail you remember from this story, let it be this: Smith Snowden is too fast for treadmills.

This spring, the future Utah cornerback was going on a senior trip with some of his friends. He called his track coach — Skyridge High School’s Ronda Hansen — to see if she could create some workouts for him so he wouldn’t fall behind in his training to win the 100-meter dash at the state track meet. Hansen obliged, sending him a group of treadmill workouts knowing he wouldn’t have access to a track.

But on the first day, Snowden texted her with an issue. The treadmill couldn’t get up to his top speed. He would have to improvise the rest of the way.

“I’ve never worked with someone where treadmills didn’t work,” Hansen said. “Treadmills don’t go as fast as he needs to. If he wants a good workout, he cannot do the treadmill.”

It is a story Hansen loves for multiple reasons, though. The obvious one is it shows the raw athletic ability of the four-star corner — the one that allows him to run a 10-second 100-meter dash and have college coaches salivating over the prospects of adding him to their secondary. (Utah won the recruiting war over BYU, Tennessee, Stanford and others.)

But it also shows the person Snowden is — the one who is relentlessly competitive and driven. It is, by Hansen’s estimation, the reason he didn’t enroll early at Utah and instead came back for his senior spring. He promised himself he would win the 100-meter dash after he lost by a few tenths of a second last year. And even as most top recruits would have left, he came back to school to finish what he started.

“Most people, if they go on a trip, they’re gonna go on a trip and not run,” Hansen said. “I have never worked with someone that is as focused as he is. He made a promise to run, and he did it.”

On Saturday at BYU, Snowden won the 100-meter title in Class 6A, flirting with a state record. He recorded a 10.59-second race. The record was 10.49. But it is just the fact that he ran at all that has people talking.

Jon Lehman, his high school football coach, acknowledged the more conventional path would have been for Snowden to get a head start on his college career and participate in spring camp. But then he thought about it, and that is not who Snowden is.

“He is just so competitive, man,” Lehman said. “He sets these goals and he does it. Nothing really gets in the way, not even college.”

Snowden has made a career of it thus far. When he was a freshman — about 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds — Lehman gave him the No. 93 jersey that was a double XL. The message was simple: He wouldn’t play much, if at all.

But that year Snowden forced himself into the lineup and Lehman was eventually having him cover Chase Roberts, the current BYU receiver and then American Fork Star. He also put him against Isaiah Glasker and Devin Downing, both eventual BYU players too.

“He’s 14 years old, and they’re 18 years old,” Lehman said. “He’s swimming in his new jersey and they’re shaving their beards. And he just never was afraid. Never gave up an inch. I saw his mindset there.”

Snowden eventually won the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, becoming the first corner to win the award in Utah. Skyridge also won the state title, beating Isaac Wilson and Corner Canyon.

But right after that, Snowden went into track mode. He spent most afternoons working with Hansen on the little details. They went over block positioning so that his muscles would get the maximum amount of push. He fine-tuned his start, so he could stay lower for longer and avoid hitting his maximum speed as quickly. He trained like a track athlete would, chasing the goal.

“This was my goal all season to win,” Snowden said. “Just finally see all that work that I did paid off. So it feels good for sure.”

Now that track is over, and his high school chapter completed on his own terms, he will go to Utah this summer. Some say Snowden will be behind because he didn’t go through spring.

But here, Snowden presents an alternative story. He will go into Utah with the same skill set that made him a great high school player: one with freakish athleticism and an unrelenting drive. The same competitiveness that made him not enroll in Utah early will also be the reason he is successful in the program.

And in Snowden style, now that he has turned the page, he is all in.