Ever since his first days at Marquette University, Richard Smith, a ‘73 alumnus, has worked hard to become the successful and respected man he is today. In addition to all his post-collegiate success as a husband, father and president of one of the most prominent civil engineering firms in the country, Rick Smith has quickly become a Marquette basketball icon, known simply as “The Jump Around Guy.”
After graduating from Marquette University High School in 1968, Smith reluctantly decided to attend Marquette University despite having a number of concerns, not the least of which was that he would have to stay in-state and close to home.
Despite early fears of “missing out on the college experience,” Smith’s attitude soon changed. “As I started to get ingrained into the MU culture, I found it very rewarding. I loved Marquette.” Smith found the philosophy and expression of Cura Personalis particularly rewarding: “They really became a partner with you.”
Smith compared his Marquette experience favorably to the college experience of his public-schooled friends. He opined that at public institutions you are only seen as a number.
Smith majored in civil engineering and graduated in 1973. He then went on to graduate school at Marquette, where he obtained a Masters Degree in Science and Environmental Engineering in 1982.
Smith asserts that his Catholic education has made him the man he is today. “Religion is a big part of my life. Private education in grade school, high school, and Marquette University provided me with strong beliefs that I’ve carried through into my business – to give back to the community and school, and to be compassionate and fair in my work.”
He would also grow a deeper connection with his future wife at Marquette. They had known each other in high school but not very well. She had gone to Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, while he went to Marquette University High School. It was at Marquette together that they really began to know each other. After both of their collegiate careers, they were married at Gesu in 1974.
In 1978 Smith founded R.A. Smith & Associates, Inc., where it soon began to grow. Now R.A. Smith National, Smith’s company specializes in everything civil engineering, including surveying, planning, and landscaping architecture to name a few.
His firm works in both the private and public sectors all across the country, where they have been involved in a number of high profile construction projects like the Marquette Interchange, as well as private companies including Walmart, Target and Cabela’s.
The Warrior controversy
Like many Marquette alumni, Smith was very irritated about the change of the school’s moniker from The Warriors to the Golden Eagles. He still flies a Warrior flag outside of R.A. Smith National during the basketball season. If the team wins, he flies it at full-mast. If the team loses, he flies it at full-mast. If the team plays very poorly, he flies it at half-mast upside-down. But Smith takes the symbol very seriously. On one occasion, the flag was stolen in the middle of the night. So he put a lock on the flagstaff so no one could take it down.
He was also among the alumni who wanted to get a group together to boycott the games and no longer donate money to the school because of the change of the school’s logo. To this day he still cannot comprehend the university’s decision.
Smith has no particular attachment to the Native American mascot either: “We could have a gladiator! That’s a warrior, isn’t it?” He does not find the “warrior” name offensive. If that’s offensive, what would that say of the Notre Dame “Fighting Irish”? That would simply represent the Irish as a bunch of “drunken, fighting jerks.”
Being the Jump-Around Guy
For more than 40 years, Smith has been a Marquette basketball fanatic, and has had season tickets for 38 years. One of the highlights for Smith over the past four decades was being able to see Al McGuire coach.
“I was very fortunate to be involved at Marquette University during a period when Al McGuire was there. He was an unbelievable coach.” Smith went on to describe Marquette’s winning of the National Championship under McGuire as “the best sports experience I’ve ever had.”
It was during the ’07-’08 basketball season that the title of Mr. Richard A. Smith, M.S., P.E. would forever change in the minds of thousands of Marquette basketball fans. Smith became affectionately known as “The Jump Around Guy.”
Four years ago, Smith was attending a MU basketball game with his wife and friends when he noticed the Marquette student section. “There’s a huge difference between the students and the rest of the fans. [Students] go wild and put on a show in itself, in addition to the basketball game.”
It was then that the song Jump Around, by House of Pain, began to play, and the entire student section began to jump and down and clap to the music. Seeing this, Smith asked his friends why no one other than the students gets up to jump to the song. In response to his friends’ replies of “Why don’t you?” Smith got up – dressed in a suit for work– and began to “jump around.”
Smith says that almost instantly the cameras were on him showing him jumping, much to the delight of the rest of those in attendance, especially the students. Being a middle-aged man in a suit, along with being the only person in the Bradley Center besides the students jumping up and down, he was easily distinguishable from the crowd.
Channel surfing on the east coast, Smith’s son happened to turn on the ESPN covered game, and to his surprise saw his father jumping solo on national television. It turned out that Smith’s son was not the only one watching the game, and two local television stations featured Smith jumping.
At the next home game, Smith believed that his jumping days were behind him as a fun, one-time event. But as the second half came, and Jump Around started up, the camera went to Smith. The students stared and pointed demandingly, willing him to once again “jump around.” The rest is history, and Smith now jumps almost every home game, every time the song is played.
Smith often receives frequent shout outs by Marquette basketball fans everywhere, even at his church, St. Mary’s in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. Children, parents and fans alike give kind words of praise.
Smith enjoys his title as “The Jump Around Guy.” “I don’t mind it. It’s a lot of fun. If I can make someone’s experience a little better, I’d be happy to do it.” His wife enjoys it as well. In the past he would try to get her to jump alongside him. On one occasion she did. He claims that everyone loved her more than him!
Wherever they go, people see her and ask about “the jumping guy.” This summer at the Wisconsin State Fair, Mr. Smith was walking out of the washroom when he saw his wife surrounded by a group of guys asking about him!
Even Marquette’s newest freshmen know who he is. Before the first game of the season had started, word had filtered through to them. Jon Harrington, a freshman in the college of Business, said that his RA or some upperclassman told him about the “Jump Around Guy.” Tommy
Garbacz, a freshman in the college of Engineering, saw him on Youtube. Freshman in the college of Arts and Sciences Brian Kane heard about Smith from his friends. It seems Smith’s fame will never stop growing.