LARAMIE, Wyo. — Players, coaches and analysts can all agree: Brett Smith has "it."
Trying to get a definition of just what "it" is?
"It" seems to be a combination of natural athletic ability, a keen knowledge of the game of football, toughness and a level of competitiveness bordering on insanity.
OK, and probably a few other things.
Through 10 games, Smith, Wyoming's true freshman quarterback has shown that he has "it," even if it's tough to agree on one definition.
In a loss against TCU on Nov. 5, the Wyoming Cowboys were forced to find out what it is like without Brett Smith at the helm.
Their rookie quarterback took a handful of hard hits, the worst of which came on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Up until that point, Smith had always bounced back up from a hit, including a first-quarter helmet-to-helmet shot against the Horned Frogs.
That toughness surely plays into "it."
"That resiliency, that competitiveness, that willingness to win," UW junior receiver Chris McNeill tells the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/t2jndo). "That all comes with that 'It-factor' and he shows it more and more each week."
"To focus into a couple of characteristics, you just see his drive and determination," UW offensive lineman Nick Carlson added. "I think that's what I think 'it' is.
"He refuses to be denied."
Smith, though only in his first season with the UW program, has also become a quintessential leader.
"It's just everything a quarterback needs, especially being a freshman and taking a role like this," UW sophomore receiver Robert Herron said. "He's got what it takes."
UW offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon has long said he no longer considers Smith a freshman.
After scouting Smith on film, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun knows what Brandon means.
Smith arrived in Laramie for the spring semester last school year and participated in spring camp, taking advantage of that opportunity and eventually winning the starting job.
"He's been there now for a good bit of time, and he plays that way, too," Calhoun said. "Executes well, pretty versatile on their attack.
"He's a good player, good feet. He can make plays off schedule, a very complete quarterback."
Through 10 games, Smith has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,226 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
He's also posted 518 rushing yards -- it would be more if not for a handful of sacks -- with a team-high 10 touchdowns on the ground.
"He never gets rattled," San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. "You'd like to think that a freshman wouldn't be as confident. He plays very confident. He gets out of trouble. When he's in trouble, once he runs with the ball, he's got great speed. He's thrown the ball more accurately each game.
"He's about as good a true quarterback as I've seen. He's going to be something really, really special as he goes along."
Even the last two Wyoming quarterbacks to throw a pass who were not named Smith have plenty of praise for the Pokes' freshman.
Sophomore backup Colby Kirkegaard, who was called to action when Smith went down against TCU and completed 5 of 10 passes, says he has learned from Smith by watching the offense from the sideline.
And Kirkegaard isn't taking anything away from his counterpart.
"He's just a tough competitor," Kirkegaard said. "He's breaking tackles, fighting for extra yards. The ability to run with his feet, as well, I've heard lots of defenses talk about going against a running quarterback and it definitely deflates them.
"He's just all-around a good quarterback."
And, of course, Smith -- who is only made available for media interviews following games -- took over the starting spot that was left vacant by Austyn Carta-Samuels, who transferred to Vanderbilt following his sophomore season.
Even Kelly Stouffer admits that nobody has ever truly defined what "it" is when it comes to describing football players.
The former NFL first-round draft pick who played quarterback for Colorado State is now an analyst for several media outlets, including the MountainWest Sports Network, and has spent time breaking down film of Wyoming's true freshman quarterback.
"Whatever 'It' is and how you break that down, to me it has to start with whether you understand the game or not," Stouffer said. "He seems to have somewhat of an intrinsic, almost natural understanding of the game of football. He's just doing things that are advanced for his age ... and doing them consistently well.
"I see guys playing in their third and fourth season that aren't as consistent at doing some of the things he's doing right now consistently well."
As Smith has become more and more noticed on a regional -- and even a somewhat national -- spectrum, of course, many are prone to dissecting his skills.
Smith's throwing motion has been described by some as unorthodox or unnatural.
That said, Smith has been fairly accurate.
"Accuracy, as a quarterback, starts from the ground up," Stouffer said. "You have to have your feet right in order to throw accurately, and then ultimately you have to be making the right decisions ... to be consistently accurate.Comment on this story
"With Brett, early on in his career, he seems to have that, naturally, that some guys struggle with their entire careers."
Stouffer, like many around the Mountain West, is intrigued to see what Smith is capable of down the stretch this season.
Perhaps part of the it-factor includes playing at a high level consistently through a full season.
"I don't know that the mystical 'It' can be defined," Stouffer said.