SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith said Wednesday he was in the process of applying for a concealed-weapon permit when a traffic stop earlier in the year led to him being charged with felony gun possession.
Smith, who played high school football for East Kentwood, spoke with reporters ahead of the Fiesta Bowl for the first time since the charge was made public the week before the Big Ten championship. Smith played in the title game against Purdue on Dec. 3 and was not suspended by coach Jim Harbaugh.
“I told coach everything from the get-go. Just like I told the police officer the truth from the get-go. Honesty is the best policy and that’s what I was,” said Smith, a team captain and potential first-round NFL draft pick.
No. 2 Michigan plays No. 3 TCU on Saturday in the College Football Playoff.
Smith, 21, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor about a week after the charge. Smith’s record will be cleared if stays out of trouble for a certain period of time, which is a common offer for young people with no past criminal activity.
The traffic stop occurred on Oct. 7, the day before Michigan played Indiana.
“I had my certificate and I meant to turn it in a couple of days before I got pulled over. And I had to reschedule for Wednesday of the week after. So I was like four days away from turning in my paper,” said Smith, who said he had already taken a required 8-hour training class.
Harbaugh faced some criticism for not suspending Smith after his run-in with the law. The coach had been adamant about Michigan State players who were involved a postgame fight in the tunnel at Big House being disciplined and facing legal ramifications.
Michigan co-defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale said he fully supported how Harbaugh dealt with the situation.
“(Harbaugh) did everything right with the team. He expressed to the coaches how we’re going to handle it. He expressed to Mazi and his family how it was going to be handled,” Clinkscale said. “And I don’t think he could have handled it a different way.”