Torrey Smith: Leading By Example

Smith hopes that through hard work, the Terps will have a successful season.

After a 2-10 campaign last season, the Maryland Terrapins are looking to rebound in the ACC in 2010, proving any doubters wrong and diehard fans right. Their heart is glaring. Their talent is undeniable. Their focus is second to none. And no one player exemplifies these qualities better than junior wide receiver, Torrey Smith.

Head coach Ralph Friedgen knows what Smith means to this team. Last season, Smith was the Terps’ most dangerous offensive weapon, as he caught 61 passes for 824 yards and five scores – good for the second most in the entire Atlantic Coast Conference.

“[Torrey’s] a very good receiver,” Friedgen said. “He has tremendous work ethic. He’s the ideal of low maintenance, high production.”

But it’s the intangibles that Smith brings to the table that really impresses Friedgen. His personality and his role as a team leader is what really helps distinguish Smith from the pack.

“He’s a very good leader. He’s a very good person. I don’t know if there’s any negatives. He’s humble. He’s really just a great kid,” Friedgen said.

His meaning to our team is just his presence alone makes us better if you take he’s a good football player. His presence to this program, his leadership qualities, his camaraderie, his unselfishness, his ability to communicate with me and all the other kids – he’s going to be very, very successful in life,” he added.

For Smith, however, being a role model comes natural. The hard work that he puts in on and off of the field serves as an example for him teammates, as well as the other wide receivers on the team. Smith believes that gaining the respect of his coaches and teammates is key to being a great leader.

“I have a lot of respect on the team both on and off the field,” Smith explained. “Off the field, I do what I’m supposed to do in the classroom. I don’t smoke or drink and a lot of my teammates respect me that way.”

“On the field I just try to work hard. Coach [Lee] Hull always says, ‘Don’t tell anybody else how to clean up their own house if your own house is dirty,’ so I try to do the things I’m supposed to do. Therefore, when I have to speak up and lead by example, it means something.”

And work hard is exactly what Smith does. After a spectacular 2009 campaign, Smith was not satisfied. Despite breaking the ACC record for kickoff return yardage (ranked sixth in the nation), setting the Maryland record for all-purpose yardage with 2,192 yards and being named second-team All-ACC as a wide receiver and a return specialist, Smith of course felt he could do better.

In the offseason, Smith worked his route running and pass catching. His goal, you ask, is to become as consistent as possible. All in all, he just wants to be as dynamic a playmaker as possible.

“I got better as a receiver over the summer. I guess the biggest thing I can do is make plays when my number is called,” Smith said.

What’s Smith’s method? He spent a lot of time in the weight room working on his strength and conditioning, as well as doing position-specific drills. When camp came around this summer, Smith felt he was just a more athletic player.

“When it time for camp, I was coming in and out of my breaks faster, playing lower, working on my hand placement so I’m catching the ball and clinging it,” Smith said. “I got a little stronger upper body wise. I’m just a better athlete right now.”

Given the work Smith put in during the offseason, combined with his record-breaking campaign last year, it’s no wonder he’s a contender for both the Paul Hornung Award, which is given to the nation’s more versatile player, and the Biletnikoff Award, a distinction given to college football’s top wide receiver.

As a pre-season candidate for both awards, Smith may feel flattered, but in no way is it his main goal. Smith possesses a team-first mentality and play whatever role he has to in order to ensure wins for the Terps.

“I really don’t care about the numbers as long we win. But at the end of the day, whenever the ball is in my hands I’m going to score. I just want to do what I have to do to help us win,” he said.

Smith, along with seven other wide receivers in the ACC, is a pre-season candidate for the 2010 Biletnikoff Award. His competition includes Leonard Hankerson of Miami, Greg Little of North Carolina, Bert Reed of Florida State, Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer of North Carolina State, Marshall Williams of Wake Forest and Donovan Varner of Duke.

When asked what separates him from this list of top wide receivers in the conference, Smith replied: “I’m balanced. I’m not an overly big receiver but I’m not small. I’m 208 [pounds], so as far as weight and height – I got that stuff. I’m fast. I’m not a speed guy; I’m not just a big, physical possession guy – I feel like I can do it all, whether it be catching the quick pass, catching the deep throw, making something out of nothing.”

He also mentioned his role on special teams: “I can catch the ball; I return kicks, punts, run down as a gunner. I can do it all as far as the game of football goes.”

But if Smith is to be as successful as last season, he hopes to do so in a way that anchors his entire team. He said that in order for the Terps to be contenders this season, he needs to be the best leader he can be, make plays and set an example for the younger players. And in that role, Smith definitely sees a turnaround coming.

“Everybody’s hungry. Last year was last year. We kind of passed that now. We just want to go out there and prove ourselves, show what we’re really about. We have too much talent on our team to be 2-10,” he explained.

“We’re focused. Everyone’s hungry. Coach [Ralph] Friedgen’s hungry, the whole staff, players, strength and conditioning coaches – everyone around here wants to get Maryland football back where we were. Everyone that’s against is us is kind of motivation.”

He also made notice of an interesting statistic last season. Seven of the Terps’ losses were by 11 points or less. Speaking of close decisions, the team lost three games by a whopping six total points, including matchups against Middle Tennessee, Florida State and Boston College, according to the ACC Web site.

“For some reason we didn’t get it done. You turn those games around; we’re a totally different team. We got to focus on the little things, finishing and see where we end up at the end of the season,” Smith said.

While the Terps seemed poised for a rebounding season in 2010, Smith and his team are taking the one game at a time approach. It may be old school. It may be cliché. It may be corny. But at the end of the day, whatever puts wins on the scoreboards is worthwhile.

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