Good Choice -- Smith making an impression

Florida State tailback Leon Washington looked heralded recruit Antone Smith in the eyes and spoke deliberately. The message was simple and provided a lasting memory when it came to Smith's official visit to campus.

If you want to compete with the best, you'll come to Florida State."

That was in January. Fast forward to last Saturday. With Washington slowed by a hip pointer, Smith ran for 78 yards in FSU's 55-24 rout of Duke. An eye-popping 45-yard touchdown run showcased Smith's natural ability to shed tackles and move in traffic.

Once again, an impression had been made. Only this time the roles were reversed.

"He kind of reminds me of me out there," laughed Washington, a senior who made waves with a 134-yard performance against Florida as a true freshman. "Every time he gets in there, he does good things. But you have to expect that because that's what he did in high school."

Smith starred at Pahokee, leading the Devils to the 2B state championship last fall with 44 touchdowns and over 2,800 yards rushing.

When the season was over, he had his pick from over 60 Division I offers to play at the next level. When it was all said and done, Smith shocked coaches and teammates – not to mention his mother – when he chose the Seminoles over Miami, a childhood favorite a team that appeared to be a better fit.

Just up the road, the Hurricanes were in need of another back – Frank Gore had graduated to the NFL ranks and current starter Tyrone Moss was the doghouse following a poor end to the 2004 season.

FSU, meanwhile, had four tailbacks on scholarship with Washington and redshirt junior Lorenzo Booker firmly entrenched atop the depth chart.

"I just had a good feeling coming here and meeting those guys," Smith said. "Now they are like my big brothers. They learn me this and they learn me that on a daily basis. I'm away from my mom and those guys make me feel like I'm at home."

Smith could find a permanent home in the FSU backfield in seasons to come thanks to logistics that go beyond Washington's graduation. There are uncertainties surrounding Booker, who will earn his degree this spring and could be a good candidate leave for the NFL, and Jamaal Edwards, a third-stringer last season who took a redshirt this fall and is the subject of transfer rumors.

Above all else, Smith's football acumen dictates that he'll be in FSU coach Bobby Bowden's plans for the rest of this season and beyond.

"He's definitely put himself more and more into the picture," said Bowden, who was so impressed with Smith's preseason camp that the freshman was out to return the opening kickoff in his first career game Sept. 5 against Miami.

"I'm just thankful for the opportunity," Smith said. "There's a lot of hard work left to do."

Who knew hard work could be fun to watch? His highlight-reel scamper against the Blue Devils made Sportscenter and made fans out of a few of his teammates. Replays showed seven different Duke players had a chance to bring Smith down before he broke free on a sprint to the end zone.

"Oh, man. That was amazing," senior center David Castillo said. "All five fans in the stands that were cheering for Duke went crazy thinking they got him for a loss and then he broke free on them. I haven't seen a guy break that many tackles since (former FSU tailback) Greg Jones against Clemson (in 2002)."


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