John Macon Smith '14 (Zach Morgan '14 photo)
John Macon Smith '14 (Zach Morgan '14 photo)

What were some key reasons you decided to attend Guilford?

I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life at the time. I was attending a Division I school and playing baseball, but my yearning for an education that challenged me daily to push my own limits was not being met. I grew up in Greensboro (went to high school right down the road at Western Guilford), so I always knew about Guilford. I wanted a place where I could get a first-class education, while rekindling my enjoyment of playing baseball. Thankfully, Guilford provided everything I could’ve asked for and more.

What were some factors that helped you realize the success you enjoyed as a student at Guilford?

Guilford allows you to fully realize your potential, which helps you improve in all other facets of life. All of my coaches, professors, and teammates were quality people, and put a genuine interest in me as a person, before their interest in me as a student or baseball player. Guilford’s professors were always willing to go the extra mile to help me prepare for life beyond school and baseball. I truly believe the professors at Guilford are the best around. Professors like Heather Hayton, Betty Kane, Garland Granger, and Bill Grubbs made all the difference for me.

What were some factors that helped you realize the success you enjoyed as an athlete at Guilford?

Before I transferred to Guilford, I began to lose my enjoyment for playing ball. When I arrived, I found a system where I was allowed to be myself as a player. I never felt any pressure to perform at a level beyond what I was capable of, which helped me relax when I played. As a result, my love for baseball and my enjoyment of simply playing the game every day reached its peak. Of course, countless hours of hard work also played a factor, but being confident in the player I was helped me compete at my highest level.

What have you been up to since you left Guilford?

Since graduation in May of 2014, I have checked off some big life milestones. I received my Masters in Accounting from UNC Greensboro in August of 2015, I got married in September, and started work at RSM US LLP, a certified public accounting firm, in downtown Greensboro. I have also been working on obtaining my CPA license. It’s been a whirlwind, but it has been great.

How has Guilford prepared you for where you are today?

Guilford provides an education that won’t let you become content with where you stand. My peers and professors were constantly challenging me to see life from a different perspective, and that has prepared me for a corporate job better than anything else.

What about your experience as a Guilford student-athlete has helped you the most?

There are so many aspects of being a student-athlete that taught me lessons about life, and helped shape me into the person I wanted to become. Guilford is special in that there is such a sense of community surrounding the campus: professors want to know how your team is doing, leaders at the college keep up with the athletic programs, and I’ve already met many professionals outside of Guilford College that are know about its programs and are interested in finding out about my experiences there. Finding a place with such a strong sense of community helped me raise the bar even more for myself on the field, because I wanted to represent Guilford College baseball in the best light possible to the surrounding community. I will always be more proud to have represented Guilford Athletics than of my personal achievements, which is due to the great people who made my experience as a student athlete at Guilford so special.

What do you miss most about Guilford?

I miss the day-to-day grind with my teammates. Going out every day and getting after it, working hard together, creates a bond that is difficult to reproduce in any form outside of sports. The feeling of being a part of a huge family, striving towards a common goal, and being a part of something much bigger than me is what I miss the most. Being a student-athlete was demanding, but nothing has been more rewarding for me in my life.

What are your future plans?

For now, I’m fully focused on passing the CPA exam, and learning more about the ins and outs of the businesses I work with. I can’t honestly say that I have mapped out long-term plans for myself. I’ve always been the kind of person to take each day one step at a time, and look at each day as an opportunity to go to bed that night a better person than when I woke up that morning. If I can look myself in the mirror and say that, then I’ve accomplished my goal for that day.

What is one thing a high school student-athlete considering college needs to know?

If you want to be the best athlete you can be, look for a place where you can truly enjoy the sport you play. You’ve given so much of yourself to that sport, made sacrifices that other people around you were not willing to make; you need to enjoy playing it every day, and soak up every minute of it. Also, don’t forget that when you’re a student-athlete, you are a student before an athlete. Take pride in that and perfect your craft as a student first.

Also, know that your sport will continue to shape you and help you grow for as long as you are blessed to continue playing. After tough losses, my high school coach always said, “The same fire that melts butter tempers steel.” Meaning, you’ll face lots of situations in your life when those circumstances will melt through you like butter, yet it’s that same fire that will also help you grow and become as strong as steel. I’ll never forget those words from coach (Chris) Causey, because they are so very true both in sport and in life.

Identify and describe one or two of your favorite moments or experiences while at Guilford.

I’ll go with one that, if you asked most of my teammates, probably wouldn’t be a common answer. On Friday mornings during the fall, we had what coach Black called Mental Toughness Day. We showed up at the field when it was about 40 degrees at 6 a.m., many of us in bathing suits and equipped with the oldest towel we could find in our closets, for our mental toughness workout. The workouts consisted of splitting into teams of five or six, and running, essentially, a workout relay race around the field. We went through different stations that consisted of push-ups, sit-ups, fireman carry, lunges, and at the end, we had to army crawl to the finish line through the already damp grass while coach Black or coach Hadra sprayed us with the hose. Those days really created a strong bond on the team because we all struggled through it together, and I will never forget those mornings. Of course, beating Greensboro was always extra sweet, as well!

- John Macon Smith '14