Smith seeking redemption

The game of football has greatly tested the patience of Brandon Smith. In the last three years he played in only one game and the 2009 season, where he ultimately missed the entire year, was supposed to be his last one in Tempe. Yet, the wide receiver didn't want to end his ASU tenure on a sour note and was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility and intends to take advantage of that opportunity.

After redshirting his freshman year in 2005, Brandon Smith played in 11 games the following season and starting in two of them. He totaled six catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns that year, and in his first career start, he caught three passes for 102 yards (34.0 avg.) and a touchdown against Washington State.

His second start featured a 37-yard touchdown reception in the 2006 Aloha Bowl against Hawai'i, his last score as a Sun Devil. In that one play, he showed his blazing speed and the knack to make big plays and ignited the imagination of the maroon and gold faithful with that score.

His future never looked brighter.

Alas, a torn ACL in 2007 sidelined him for the rest of that year and in 2008 he played in just one contest. A tore hamstring last year forced him to miss his second full season at ASU. As he applied to the NCAA and gained his eligibility for this year he also sought out the best medical assistance he could get to prevent any future health setbacks.

"I've been all around Tempe talking to doctors, massage therapists," Smith recalled, "and asked them questions about my body and how to prevent me getting injured again.

"I worked harder in strength and conditioning than I ever had before. The (strength) coaches told me I had one the best summers I ever had. I was working out a lot with Omar (Bolden) waking up at six o'clock everyday pushing each other to work hard. I was pushing everything out to the limit."

In Smith's mind, there was simply no way that he was going to be denied, from a heath standpoint to play in 2010.

"I didn't want to give up on everything," Smith explained, "because playing football was my dream ever since I was a kid. Any opportunity I'm going to have to play football I will take it. I could have stopped playing my last year, but I just felt it wasn't it."

Smith feels that he can do well in the spread offense that Arizona State will run this year, which was naturally another motivating factor to try and come back for this year.

"It gives a lot of guys an opportunity to get the ball," Smith said if the new scheme. "The last couple of seasons have been tough on me and now in this offense I can show the coaches what I got. Show my speed, my catching ability…show that I can play at this level.

"I want to make a comeback and put my name back there."

Friday night marked the first time in fall camp that the squad was in shells, which ramped up the intensity of that session and create a few fights to break out.

"The defense wanted to come out and punk us and we (the offense) wasn't going to put up with that," Smith commented. "This year we are going to get back at them. We didn't play well last fall camp and this year all of us worked hard in the summer so we could to show them that they couldn't do to us what they were doing last year. We had to take a stand.

"But all the fights, it's just a competition thing. We all love each other and what you see out there is just our competitive nature."

The competition isn't just exclusive to one side of the ball against the other. Smith acknowledged the vast depth of the wide receiver group this season, and the constant jockeying for position on the depth chart. That being said, that battle doesn't affect the relationships among the players in this role.

"We are all helping each other through because the wide receivers are all like family," Smith remarked. "Every time one of us makes a play we congratulate them and if they mess up we pick them back up. We are all in it as a unit.

"We are all fighting for a position, but we put the all the hostile stuff aside and be in it for each other. We aren't in this as individuals because we are a receiving corps. We need all the receivers to be successful in this offense."

Smith doesn't want that aforementioned Hawai'i Bowl touchdown to be his last highlight and the perhaps the only play ASU fans will remember him by. As sweet as that memory still is, it is time to truly make it just one more event that was followed by several more just like it.

"That touchdown seems like 20 years ago," Smith said. "No way is that going to be my last big play at ASU. I'm planning on many more. I missed the spring and I have to come back in here at camp and learn the plays.

"I'm going to go right now into the film room with my playbook and study the offense. I'm going to sleep with the playbook."

Granted, Smith does was to make amends for a disappointing career and in the process help the offense truly begin a new and successful chapter after two trying seasons. However, he knows that he would have never been in this position if he didn't obviously have the blessing of head coach Dennis Erickson. Thus, he feels all his hard work is also aimed at rewarding the Sun Devil skipper for his trust.

"Coach has always been telling me that I deserve a chance," Smith said. "He told me that I have the talent to do it and to always keep my head up. I always had great confidence in my ability but I had to figure out what was keeping me from playing.

"This is why I worked out harder, learned from the other guys and get me back in it."

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