Kolby Smith

Family Style for a Family Man: Koby Smith

By Sarah Griffin | May 26, 2022

Atlas head coach Ben Rubeor and his team pride themselves in their family style of play, an emphasis on working hard for one another. This on-field mentality and locker room culture led the Bulls all the way to the semifinals last season. With two first round picks in the college draft this year, Rubeor looked to add two of the top players in college lacrosse to fit into the family. 

With the second overall pick, Rubeor drafted NCAA DI's all-time leading scorer, Chris Gray. With the fifth pick as well, he selected Koby Smith, the versatile defenseman out of Towson University. 

Rubeor coached Smith in his high school years at Loyola Blakefield, leading many to expect Rubeor to take Smith with the fifth overall pick given the relationship between the two. However it’s become clear it’s more about the family-oriented individual Smith is on and off the field that stands out not just to Rubeor, but seemingly everyone around him. He embodies everything about the Atlas’s family style. 

After graduating high school, Smith committed to the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, Rhode Island to play lacrosse there. A Maryland native, he struggled being far away from his family. As months passed, it became evident NAPS was not the right fit for him and he longed to be closer to home. 

Smith rescinded his commitment to the Naval Academy late in the first semester. Faced with a decision as to what’s next, he chose to prioritize attending college close to home.

“I was heartbroken when he didn’t [initially] come to Towson,” Shawn Nadelen, Towson head coach recalled. Nadelen had seen Smith play quite a bit at Loyola Blakefield as it was just minutes from the university. Smith’s strength and athleticism stood out to Nadelen - a physically imposing, 3-time MLL Champion defenseman in his own right. 

With his recruitment open again, Towson offered Smith a scholarship and this time, it was a no-brainer for him. After accidentally hanging up the phone the first time out of excitement, he called up Coach Nadelen to let him know he was coming home to Towson. 

“He established himself immediately,” Nadelen said. Smith joined the team just two weeks before Towson’s first game in spring 2018. Both Nadelen and Rubeor spoke of the versatility Smith’s game brings. 

As a close defenseman, he plays his matchups well and with an edge. “He’s got a very high level of athleticism that helps him to get after his matchup and pickup passes,” Nadelen said. Both coaches regarded him as an extremely competitive and deceptively strong player. 

Of course with such strength on his side, sometimes players let tempers flare and take bad penalties because of it. One thing that’s stood out to Nadelen over the course of Smith’s development at the collegiate level is his learned ability to control that. Nadelen himself was very disciplined in his playing career, with just 23 penalty minutes in 106 career games. “You never want that edge to go away, but rather maximize it. I’ve watched him mature as a player and do just that…he’s such a strong, physical player but he’s learned to keep himself calm and even-keeled.” Smith’s learned discipline is something for a coach that stands out far more than any big hit. 

Lauded for his versatility, Smith’s impact does not end at the backend. He’s able to push the ball in transition and generate offense as well, a skill that traces back to his high school years. At Loyola Blakefield, he wore a few different hats for Rubeor. “He’s a guy who can do more and step up in different situations,” Rubeor said. Not only did he play close defense, he utilized his speed and athleticism in the midfield as an LSM and even played SSDM at times needed.

His adaptability translated well to the collegiate level as a do-it-all type of guy for Towson. As good of a close defender as he is, he’s just as good of an LSM in transition. “He’s an electric player on the field who sparks transition,” Nadelen said. Smith recorded 25 points with 15 goals in transition in his college career. 

As he makes the jump from college to professional lacrosse, Atlas defensive coordinator Ken Clausen spoke about what he hopes to see from their defensive unit this season and how Smith fits into those plans. 

“We’re family style in the sense we want everyone to eat, and we want everyone to have their share, and with that also means plugging in where you’re needed to help,” Clausen said. “Koby being a guy who’s played both long stick and close brings this level of versatility we’re always looking for. His athleticism allows him to play all over the field which fits into our family style of play.” 

Clausen emphasized the physicality in Smith’s game being something he’s excited to see not just down low, but in the midfield as well. “Whether it’s coming across the middle of the field or down low matched up with a dodging attackman, that guy can hit, and I want to see that.” 

He also mentioned what an added bonus Smith’s versatility as a player is going to be for their defensive unit. While the defense’s top priority remains the same, the Atlas’s backend didn’t generate many points last season and having Smith in their arsenal gives them that multi-faceted defender who can both cover the ball and push it into transition. 

A versatile defender with a strong physical presence and ability to generate offense in transition is great, but it was the praise for Smith as an individual off the field that stood out most to me. Both coaches spoke so highly of Smith’s character and the way he cares for those around him.

“He’s a family-oriented kid,” Rubeor said. Smith lost his father Albert Smith back in 2012 when he was just 12 years old. Along with his mom Kristin, he has a younger brother and sister. Rubeor specifically recalled after every game in high school, Smith would pick up his younger sister in his arms right after.  “As a guy who has three daughters myself, that’s something that sticks with you. He has a big heart. He cares a lot about the people around him.” 

Nadelen spoke of the same. “He’s a big family man - he looks after his sister, his brother, his mom…he’s very loyal. As much of a tenacious, edgy person he is on the field, he’s such a good, kind person to go along with that.” 

A captain at Towson, Smith prides himself in being a trustworthy individual his teammates could come to. “For me, my goal is to not only be the best version of myself, but help others to be the best version of themselves. Whether it’s just listening, talking, giving advice, or even just being a person someone can chop it up with, that’s my goal at the end of the day. Just be a good person.”

 Nadelen mentioned not only the positive impact Smith had on his teammates, but the younger kids he coaches as well, something very near to Smith’s heart. “As much of an intense competitor as he is, he has such a calm demeanor when coaching those kids, you really get to see his personality.” 

When asked what one thing he wants people to know about him that can’t be picked up on just from watching him on the field, Smith told me it’s how much he loves and cares about the sport. “It means a lot to me. I’ve coached young kids from fourth graders to juniors and seniors in high school, and being able to give back to them all the knowledge I’ve gained through the sport and see the way they’re able to create their own path with it is something so important to me. I’ve learned so much from my coaches, and to be able to give back and give these kids the same means a lot.” 

As training camp approaches and Smith prepares to find his role within the Atlas roster, one thing is for certain - the Bulls could not have found a more perfect fit for their family style.