He used to catch passes for a living. Now Brad Smith is the object of passes made by women who consider him quite a catch.
Smith, a 29-year-old former Canadian Football League player, has signed on as the titular object of affection in the debut season of The Bachelor Canada, Citytv's reality-TV attempt at importing ABC's long-running Bachelor/Bachelorette series format for a north-of-the-border audience.
The Bachelor Canada, which premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Citytv, will see Smith introduced to a field of 25 young, attractive Canadian women (including two from Winnipeg) who will compete for his attention, approval and ultimately, the final ceremonial rose that symbolizes the one woman to whom Smith is ready to give his heart.
Finding that female -- and, necessarily, going through the painful episode-by-episode process of eliminating all the other bachelorettes until just that special someone remains -- is a task Smith says he takes very seriously.
"I think that when they picked me, they picked me based on the fact that I was probably the most realistic guy who walked in there (to audition)," Smith says in a telephone interview from Toronto. "And I knew that they were going to put girls around me who were like-minded, so I knew from that that there was a good chance that there would be somebody there for me."
The Bachelor Canada follows the same format employed by its U.S.-network inspiration -- as the title character, Smith will be introduced to 25 women, ranging in age from 23 to 33, and will be given various opportunities in each episode to get to know them in order to choose which he'll keep in the mix and which he'll send packing for home at each show-ending rose ceremony.
In Wednesday's premiere, he faces the unenviable task of dealing with 25 aggressive (and, in some cases, tipsy) bachelorettes trying to make an impression before nearly half are eliminated in the first "Will you accept this rose?" floral distribution.
Smith says he's fully aware that the women may have had a variety of reasons for applying to be on the show.
"I broke it into three categories," says Smith, who is the son of former CFL star (and later league commissioner) and current senator Larry Smith. "There are girls who are there to find love; I think there are girls who are there for an experience, and if love comes, it'll change their attitude; and then there are girls who come on just to be on the show.
"That's just the nature of the beast -- there are people with the purest of intentions, others who are halfway in the door, and others who are just there to be there. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure that in my situation, there wasn't a lot who were in that third category."
Smith acknowledges that he's aware of the ABC series' dismal track record when it comes to creating long-term relationships (the vast majority of Bachelor/Bachelorette pairings have broken up shortly after the seasons that put them together), but says he was still willing to give reality-TV romance a try.
"I understand that they're the same format, but I don't think you can compare (the U.S. version to this Canadian spinoff), because when they chose me, they chose a normal guy," he insists. "Yeah, I come from kind of a packaged back story, but I'm just a normal guy with very realistic expectations of going on this show."
Smith adds that the one thing he refused to do during his Bachelor Canada experience was promise the show's producers that he'll get anywhere near as over-the-moon gushy as the U.S. version seems to require its participants to be.
"I was very up-front with them, throughout the casting process," he explains. "When they asked me, 'Are you going to find your wife?', I said, 'You'll never hear me use those terms.' I told them that I don't want to be the guy who says that and then doesn't meet his goal. I told them that my goal, if they chose me to be the Bachelor, was to go on and find a girl to start my life with. But I wasn't going to put a term to what I'm going to do at the end. And if you they put me on the show and there's no one there for me, I won't pick anybody."
When asked why it's taken so long to reach the point in his life when he's ready for a settled-down relationship, Smith points to the stresses and uncertainties of a professional football career.
"It's been pretty much a four-year span since my last serious relationship," he explains. "I was on three different teams, I was cut, I was traded -- it's being somewhere for six months, being somewhere else for six months, living in 14 different apartments in the last five years, and never having roots anywhere.
"It's getting into the start of a relationship with a girl (in Toronto) and then getting traded to Edmonton. There was never a settled feeling, and to be honest, I was never in a situation where I was ready to completely settle down. But now I'm ready."
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The Bachelor Canada
Hosted by Tyler Harcott; featuring Brad Smith
Wednesday at 8 p.m.