By Savannah Cooper | Staff Writer
Baylor athletics has many traditions, and one of them takes place at the Bill Daniel Student Center every Thursday before a home football game. This seven-year tradition has grown and found its place on campus and its host, Derek Smith, has been there to help such efforts.
The Indiana native came to Baylor as a graduate student in communications who had an interest in sportscasting. Outside of hosting Chalk Talk, Smith’s full time job is writing for various publications including Baylor Magazine and the Baylor Proud blog.
Shortly after his arrival at Baylor, Smith took advantage of any opportunity he was given.
“I came to Baylor as a student to get involved and I’ve been lucky that opportunities have come my way,” Smith said. “I’ve done whatever has been able to come my way and Chalk Talk has been apart of that these last few years.”
Some opportunities that have come his way have included working with John Morris, the Voice of the Bears and being the public announcer for Baylor softball.
In 2010, Chalk Talk was created, and Smith was selected as the host and has been ever since. The 30-minute event takes place in the SUB Den with two athletes, free pizza and rows of chairs for students to sit in. Before the event, there’s an opportunity for student questions to be heard so the event is conversational.
Smith saw Chalk Talk as a way for students and athletes to connect in a unique setting.
“It was just a way to try to connect students with the football team, a chance to allow football players to see some of the student support and allow some of the students to get to see some of the football players in a different setting,” Smith said. “It gets students excited for the game on the weekend and hopefully be a student-friendly environment where players and students can interact and just be more up close.”
With the laid-back environment of Chalk Talk, Smith gets to see athletes’ true personalities shine through without having to worry about saying the right things.
“I think it’s just fun for the players to be able to talk about the game in a relax setting and show off a little of their personalities,” Smith said. “It’s also fun for students to interact with them in a way that’s casual, it’s just fun for everyone.”
In addition to football, Chalk Talk also brings in basketball players. Due to their busy schedule and traveling, they aren’t hosted every week, but instead are a bit sporadic to align with player availability and home games.
Going from football to basketball requires are a lot of changes, but Smith keeps his hosting of Chalk Talk the same using basic conversational tactics.
“In both cases you’re trying to allow them to show off their personalities and their sense of humor, so the basics stay the same. The only difference is the questions I’m asking for each sport,” Smith said.
Smith said it’s no secret that this 0-7 season has been rough on the Bears. Despite the record, which players are disappointed in, Smith has seen the players stay positive and acknowledge that they’re working toward a much bigger goal.
“What I’ve seen so far are players who I know are disappointed because the record is what it is, but I feel a conviction among them that they’re working toward something, that they’re building toward something that’s going to be good and it’s taking a little bit of time right now, but I think they know they have to put in the hard work now for it to bear results later,” Smith said. “It’s a new system, new coaches and when everything clicks they think it’s going to be something good.”
Smith said he was pleased to see the uplifted spirits of athletes because their energy makes or breaks Chalk Talk.
“I’ve been pleased to see that they haven’t been down,” Smith said. “Chalk Talk would be pretty bad if the players were down and the fans were down, but it’s been upbeat.”
After seven years of hosting, Smith enjoys seeing year after year the athletes act like the young men they are.
“One thing I’ve always enjoyed seeing is the players having this chance for them to let their hair down a little bit and not be so serious and have fun,” Smith said. “At Chalk Talk you get to see them as the college students that they are.”
If you’re in need of lunch plans on Thursday’s with a home football game the upcoming Saturday, then swing by the SUB Den for some pizza and a chat with Smith and the Bears.