Smith Eager for His First Collegiate Start

Walk-on wide receiver Rodgeriqus Smith's move up the depth chart is one of the more interesting stories for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--A year ago, playing mostly in mop-up duty in seven games, walk-on wideout Rodgeriqus Smith showed potential.

As the Tigers take the field Saturday night for the 2006 season opener, the 6-2, 184-pounder from Snellville, Ga., is expected to see prime-time action as a starter as Auburn takes on Washington State in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.

"I told my mom that I can't believe this is happening to me," Smith says. "This is just a blessing for me. Most walk-ons don't get this opportunity. "

Offensive coordinator Al Borges says that Smith earned the starting assignment with good play going back to spring drills. That put him number one on the depth chart ahead of junior Prechae Rodriguez. "We are going to play the best guy and it doesn't matter to me if he is a walk-on or a scholarship player," Borges says.

Smith notes he has received encouragement from former teammate Devin Aromashodu, a rookie with the NFL's Miami Dolphins. "Devin told me to keep working hard and do what I do," he says. "Right now I just want to go out there and be focused mentally and physically," he says. "I want to get on my routes and complete all of my assignments. I want to make plays for my team."

Smith goes into the opener feeling good about the season. "Coach Yox (strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall) has got me in good shape. I am feeling stronger now and I feel I can really compete."

Brandon Cox agrees. "He has had a good preseason," Cox points out. "He has been making a lot of plays for us."

Courtney Taylor, Auburn's top receiver, says Smith has fit in well. "He is a very good athlete," the senior notes. "I figured that out the first time I played basketball with him."

Some walk-ons are specially invited by the Auburn coaching staff, but Smith wasn't one of those players. He showed up on campus in August 2004 and asked for a chance to play for the Tigers. Wide receivers coach Greg Knox gave him a chance and he has steadily worked his way up to his current status.

"You never know what to expect coming in as a walk-on," Smith says. "I was saying to myself just come in and work hard and keep doing what you do. I was a hard worker in high school. Right now everything has been going really good for me."

Smith was a standout in football, basketball and track and field, but was injured his senior season at South Gwinett High School when he slipped while jumping to dunk a basketball in a pickup game. He still received scholarship offers from colleges in football and track, but none were from major programs. Instead of taking one of those offers, he decided to walk-on at Auburn where his friend, James Swinton, is a wide receiver.

"I never doubted myself coming out of high school," Smith says. "I always thought I was a Division I type of player."

Saturday night, with a national television audience watching, he will get a chance to show that he belongs.


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