Chatting With Sammie Smith

Former 'Nole Sammie Smith has his life back in order following a stint in prison for drug charges. Smith, who ranks fifth all-time in career rushing yards at 2,539, was on the FSU sideline vs Clemson. "In the locker room last week, I kept hearing guys say they had to ride Greg Jones. Well, they did. But this week (at UM) they are not going to be able to just ride Greg Jones. They have to have everybody come out and play hard and give 100 percent in order to win that football game," Smith said.

Editor's Note: Sammie Smith was a guest on Thursday's The Sports Authorities, a local radio show hosted by Steve Ellis of the Tallahassee Democrat and Jim Henry of The Territory. The show can be heard each Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. on WTAL 1450 AM.

Considered one of the program's most talented running backs, Sammie currently ranks fifth all-time in career rushing yards at 2,539. A rare combination of grace, speed and power, Smith rushed for 244 yards against East Carolina in 1987 and finished with 1,230 yards, a mark that stood atop the list until Warrick Dunn rushed for 1,245 yards in 1995.

Smith went on to be a first-round draft selection of the Miami Dolphins in 1989, and he played in the NFL until 1992 (Denver Broncos) before running into trouble off the field, including drug charges that resulted in jail time. Now running a courier service outside of Orlando, Smith was on the sidelines for last Thursday's Clemson game.

Here are Sammie's comments:

You had a chance to watch FSUs' game against Clemson from the Seminole sidelines. What do you think about the Seminoles' chances Saturday against Miami?

"I am going to be a realist. We are going to have to play the best football that we've played in a long time to go down to Miami and get a win. Miami has a real strong team, but I think our team is, it's at a point where we are still trying to get back to where we were several years ago. It's going to take a huge effort to come out of Miami with a win but I think anything possible. Our football team looked pretty good to me last week. Our defense has to step it up. We can't let people score all those points on us. And what can I say about Greg Jones? He's an awesome football player. A lot of people of have asked me if he reminded me of myself, and he does in some way. He's a powerful runner and I think his best games are yet to come."

What else to do you like about Greg?

"Well, I think the one thing that really stands out – that was my first chance to see him play in person – not one guy is going to bring him down. That's the key thing I think makes him successful. He doesn't go down on that first tackle. On that touchdown run, he was probably hit by three or four different people and at the very end, he drove a guy into the end zone with him. That's the thing I was really impressed by. He's a huge guy. He as fairly good speed for a guy his size and he's powerful. He just won't go down on that first hit."

During your career here, you were on teams that featured some solid defensive units. What were your impressions of FSU?

"The one thing that stood out to me was there really wasn't a presence of a pass rush. Having guys like Boulware and some of those other guys who were there the last few years, you get kind of used to being able to have someone staring in a quarterback's face. I didn't see that last week. I think that's probably one of their main problems is that opposing teams have too much time in the backfield at the quarterback position, to be able to throw the ball or run with it."

This team doesn't seem to have a playmaker on defense. Would you agree?

"Of course, I had an advantage because I played with probably one of the best football players who ever played the game on defense in Deion Sanders. Of course, they don't have anybody out there right now like that. It's hard to compare with the players they have to the teams that we had. But I think it all comes down to, they have play good and do the best they can at each position and get the most out of their total defense. And not rely on one person who can make or break a game. That has to be the same way, I feel, about our offense this week. In the locker room last week, I kept hearing guys say they had to ride Greg Jones. Well, they did. But this week they are not going to be able to just ride Greg Jones. They have to have everybody come out and play hard and give 100 percent in order to win that football game."

Chris Rix has taken some heat in the past few weeks. What were your impressions of Chris?

"I think No. 1 – and I didn't have a chance to talk with Chris when I was there – but being in that position before. No 1, he has to settle down and not listen to the media and the fans and just realize he's a great player and go out there and play football and not worry about the critics. I think once he does that and doesn't put himself in a position where he feels like he's the only one who can win football games for Florida State, he will be a great football player. He just has to settle down and get the most of his ability and make the other players surrounding him do their job too because he can't do it by himself."

What's your overall view of this program? Is the sky falling or is it in pretty good shape?

"Well, I think the football team. ... last year was definitely different. Seminole fans hadn't had to experience anything like that since my freshman and sophomore year, when we were just turning our football team around. I think they've improved a lot this year as opposed to where they were last year. And I still think there's still room for a lot of improvement. But I think if they all play hard and stick together as a football team – coaches, playes and they definitely need the fans to stay behind them – then anything can happen. We could go down to Miami and come out of there with a big win and our whole season takes on a whole new light."

When coach Bowden talks about FSU's dynasty, he always points towards your recruiting class. Did you guys have any sense that your class could be the start of something special?

"Honestly, I did. I can remember playing in the first Florida-Georgia high school all-star game they ever had and we probably had, maybe, eight, nine guys who were coming to Florida State. So, to have eight, nine guys on a high school all-star team going to one school, that had to let you know we were going to be something special and we had a good class that was going to go to Florida State and have the opportunity to turn things around. The talent level at that time was so great there that you new once you put it all together you would have a chance to have some good seasons. We fell short a couple times against Miami and it cost us a national championship. But we were just that close to having rings also. We were proud of the accomplishments we made there and was glad to be the start of what turned out to be 14, 15 years of winning."

What were your impressions of Leon Washington?

"Well, I didn't know much about him. The first I saw of him was him taking a kickoff return 90-something yards. He definitely has the ability to be a great football player, a great return man. We stay loaded so much at Florida State, that you just wonder how many players have come through there that didn't have the opportunity to play and could have played at other programs. I am looking forward to Leon getting in there and doing a lot of good things. And I am very, very excited to see the kid we signed out of California (Lorenzo Booker), see him step on the field last year."

What are you doing with yourself these days?

"I am back in the Orlando area. I have a courier business I justed started four or five months ago, and it's starting to take off now. It's something I really enjoy doing. The main thing I learned from the experiences I went through was to be able to take something negative and make a positive out of it. I went through a time in my life where I made some bad choices. I could be out there today feeling sorry for myself and looking back at the past. What I am doing is taking my past experiences and trying to make the most of them, trying to be a better father, trying to be a better overall person than I was before that happened. I made an error, I made a mistake. I have to move on with my life, and life is just great."


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