The second Saturday of the 2006 season was when I fell in love with the fluent play of Troy Smith.
First, it was a screen pass led perfectly to Ted Ginn Jr. After the defense bought on Anthony Gonzalez‘s route to the edge, it was off to the races. From there, the former running back and special-teamer found Gonzalez with pinpoint accuracy several times, whether it be to the sidelines with touch, in the middle of the field with double coverage, or breaking free from bubble coverage.
Then there was the first touchdown of the game to Anthony Gonzalez.
In one of the most beautiful displays of athleticism, Smith rolled out of the pocket with ease, planted one leg, and fired a bullet to Anthony Gonzalez alongside the nearside pylon. After surveying all of his options, Smith found the wide open man.
After that, everything else seemed like easy sailing.
Battling the clock late in the first half, Smith would throw a beautiful fade to the speedy Ted Ginn Jr, who did the rest – beating the defensive back to paydirt and the deciding points in a battle with #2 Texas.
Then, with the Longhorns hoping for a final chance, Smith led the Buckeyes on a 10 play, time killing drive that ended any hopes of a comeback.
After going 17/26 and throwing for 269 yards with two touchdowns, the Glennville High product would set the pace for a record-setting Heisman season. It was at that moment that I was sold he was going to have a future in the NFL.
Now, after four seasons in the Association and a stint as a backup in the UFL, it looks like one of Ohio State’s legendary signal callers is living in the shadows of his last game of a Buckeye.
You can call it the Heisman jinx. Maybe the fact of the matter is simply reality. Any way you look at it, there is not an Ohio State fan out there that would have imagined the Columbus Kid returning home after an opportunity with the Baltimore Ravens, San Fransisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers would go sour.
Sure, we were all alluded to the fact that the quarterback that beat Michigan three times didn’t have the god given credentials to be a superstar in the NFL. We witnessed it in the 2006 championship game, once Ted Ginn Jr. exited the ballgame after the opening kickoff. With no deep threat or receiver to open up the field, Smith was shut down by an overpowering Florida defense. It was also understood that the road from a 5th round pick to an eventual starter would be a daunting task.
But like many bias Buckeye fans, I had no doubt he’d be successful. It seemed that no matter what challenges were in front of him, the last scholarship athlete of the 2002 class would ride his athletic ability and poise in the pocket to a significant role in the NFL.
After being released by Baltimore, it seemed like things were going to click with the 49ers. More than nine months after demanding a trade via Twitter, Troy was released and picked up by Mike Singletary and the gang. After a 1-6 start in 2010, The staff gave Smith his first chance to shine.
He didn’t disappoint.
Down 10-3 late in the fourth quarter against Tim Tebow and the Broncos, the fleet footed 6’0″ backup scrambled out of the pocket to find Delanie Walker on a 38 yard strike that led to a one yard scramble into the end zone. Then on the next possession, it was Smith to Michael Crabtree for the 28 yard score.
After the win, Singletary went to his backup again. Against the division rival Rams, Smith lit Candlestick on fire – going 17/28 with 356 yards and a touchdown. After going 2-0 things started to get ugly. Smith would go 1-3 down the stretch, including a 7/19 performance against those same Rams one month later that including the infamous tirade with former 49er coach Mike Singletary. After throwing an interception to a wide open defender and fumbling a shotgun snap for a safety, it was clear Smith’s time as a starter was over.
After a season of backing up Jeremiah Masoli for the Omaha Nighthawks (UFL), and playing with the likes of Roy Hall and Maurice Clarett – Smith signed a “depth protection” contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But with Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwitch under contract for next season, the player named the Big Ten Player of the Decade by Adam Rittenberg of ESPN is now back to ground zero.
It’s doubtful that he will ever make his way back to the NFL as an every week player. There’s too much baggage for him to become a backup regularly in this league. So what’s next?
How about a fresh new start with the program that molded him into the fearless competitor Buckeye fans will always remember?
Recently, Smith talked with the News-Herald’s John Kampf about Buckeye sophomore Braxton Miller, stating that he saw himself in the young gun slinger’s approach to the game. He also believes that Miller can be ten times better than Smith was in his three years as a starting quarterback.
I see a lot of myself in him, all of myself. I solely believe he has a chance to be 10 times better than I was. He’s a lot faster. He’s a much better athlete.
I’m extremely excited about his future. I want to see him take off.
He even offered up any advice that would be useful to Miller, who is heading into his second season at Ohio State and as the starting quarterback.
I have not gotten a chance to really give him the tutelage I would like to give him,” Smith said. “He’s the quarterback of the future. He’s the person who will give us a chance to win.
The contents of that quote is exactly why Urban Meyer should remember Smith in the future as someone that might be able to help his leaders translate their games to the next level.
He’s a man that bleeds Scarlet to the fullest.
It’s my team through and through, until the day I leave this earth
No matter what happens to Troy’s career from here on out, there is no doubt that he has accomplished more than any kid out on the field would ever dream of.
Yet I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.
It might not be the Cowboys, Broncos or Giants giving him another chance. But whether it’s the Pittsburgh Power, or Edmonton Eskimos, at least this fan will be watching – hoping to see one last glimpse at the greatness that was #10 in an Ohio State Uniform.