Kolby Smith big part of Louisville's success

Kolby Smith spent his first three years at Louisville overshadowed by star running backs Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates and Michael Bush. And while he's probably been somewhat underappreciated during a solid four-year career, his worth to the Louisville football program shouldn't be underestimated.

Kolby Smith spent his first three years at Louisville overshadowed by star running backs Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates and Michael Bush. And while he's probably been somewhat underappreciated during a solid four-year career, his worth to the Louisville football program shouldn't be underestimated.

With 1,717 career rushing yards entering Saturday's game against UConn, Smith already ranks 15th on the U of L career rushing list ahead of Gates. With 12 yards against the Huskies, he'll move past Shelton into 13th place all-time. Not bad for a guy who served primarily as a blocking back his first two years and an understudy to Bush as a junior last season.

Smith was a part of Bobby Petrino's first recruiting class at U of L four years ago. A Tallahassee, Florida native, he was recruited by Petrino when he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn, then became one of Petrino's first recruits after taking the Louisville job.

Four years later, Smith's class has compiled an impressive 39-9 record, the best four-year record in Louisville history. Along the way, Smith and the Cardinals have played in three bowl games, winning the 2004 Liberty Bowl, and finished the 2004 season ranked sixth nationally.

"It means a lot to go out as the winningest class," Smith said. "It's sad and exciting at the same time that my college career is coming to an end and then I possibly get the chance to move on to bigger and better things. But I won't be around this many guys again where we're all after one common goal. The moments that we've shared together and all the things that we've gone through and fought through just to get where we're at is something that I'm going to miss."


Smith needs 12 yards Saturday to move into
13th place on the all-time U of L rushing list.

Time flies when you're having fun, and the Cardinals have had a lot of enjoyable moments during Smith's four seasons in Louisville, especially at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. U of L is 21-1 at home during Smith's career, the second longest home winning streak behind #2 USC in the nation.

"It's just gone by so fast," Smith said. "My dad came up last week for Thanksgiving and we were just sitting around talking and we were kind of sad because this weekend probably be the last time he makes his trip to Louisville for a football game."

Smith's season took a big turn when Bush went down for the year during the season-opening 59-28 win over Kentucky. And the 5-11, 218-pound Smith has made the most of his chance this season, rushing for a team leading 716 yards and seven touchdowns, including a season-high 165 yards and two touchdowns against Syracuse.

One of the top running backs in the Big East, Smith is seventh in the league in rushing at 65 yards per game. He's also caught 21 passes for 176 yards, proving him one of the most versatile backs in the league.

"It's been a great opportunity for me," Smith said. "When I get an opportunity I just want to make the best of it. And that's what I've been trying to do lately."

Now, Smith hopes he'll have an opportunity to finish his career in style with a BCS bowl game. If Louisville knocks off UConn, and the Cards get some help from West Virginia against Rutgers, U of L would win their first Big East title and likely play in either the Sugar or Orange bowls next month.

"I hope West Virginia wins," Smith said. "I don't think they'll lose two games in a row at home."


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