As the Minnesota State University, Mankato’s football team gears up for a new season, new players will take the field. Dakota Smith, a transfer from the University of South Dakota will wear No. 49, which is known as the “Jersey of Character.”
Worn first by Alex Goettl in 2017, the Jersey of Character honors the memory of Jeffery Spann, who was inducted into the Maverick Hall of Fame in 2014.
According to MSU’s Department of Athletics, Spann stood as the school’s all-time leader in tackles with 326 at the end of his college career. As a senior he led the team with 105 tackles and was named All-North Central Conference First Team and All-American Second Team. Spann, a native of Miami, was inducted into the Minnesota State Hall of Fame in 2014.
Smith, a linebacker, will be going into his junior year at MSU as he endured a gruesome injury during the 2022 Spring; he fractured a fibula in three places and dislocated ankle.
He was cleared to play three months later and is now fully recovered. He is slowly gaining strength and is expected to play this season.
“It touches my heart that he’s out here again,” MSU head football coach Todd Hoffner said. “A lot of people were really concerned about him at the spring game, and for him to be back here today — it’s nothing short of amazing,”
The player to wear No. 49 is known to represent someone who is selfless and a role model for others in the community.
“Dakota Smith is very unselfish, and willing to take on a jersey number of a legend who was an all American leading tackler and an amazing person,” Hoffner said.
Spann, who died in 2017, was known among the Maverick football family as a selfless player and individual, and someone his teammates and coaches looked up to.
“Jeffery Spann’s favorite saying was ‘bring the heat,’ and Dakota can blitz like no other,” Hoffner said. “He’s just a phenomenal person much like Spann was.”
While training for the new season Smith is also working toward his masters degree in Business Administration. Honored that he was trusted with such a special jersey, Smith said he was initially surprised when he found out.
“It made me feel really proud because he stressed how it was more about the person I am, rather than the player I am,” Smith said. “It means a lot, it really defines the kind of players we want. We want guys that genuinely play for the name on the front more than the name on the back and represent this team and this campus.”
Dakota, who arrived at MSU spring semester of 2022, says he felt supported by his new teammates on and off the field.
“I had over half the team reach out to me when I got injured, it truly came from the heart which meant a lot to me,” Smith said. “I spent every day this summer rehabbing and working out so to say the least it was a big hurdle to climb but I’m proud to be out here with the guys.”
The Mavericks’ first game is set to play at Bemidji State 6 p.m. Sept. 1. The team’s first home game Sept. 10.
“I’m excited for the first home game and being able to run on that field. There’s a lot of history at Blakeslee so being able to represent such a strong heritage is something I’m looking forward to,” Smith said.
Header Photo: Coach Hoffner and Dakota Smith stand together as they conclude the second week of Fall Camp 2022. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write to Julia Barton at Julia.Barton@mnsu.edu