Targeting 501 Yards

Back in 1985, Tampa Bay Tech running back Shawn Smith ran for a single-game Florida state record, 501 yards against Gibsonton East Bay. His son Eric Smith, perhaps the best running back the Sunshine State has to offer in the recruiting class of 2008, tells his father that record could be in jeopardy this coming fall.

"He just laughs at me," Smith said.

In pursuit of that rushing mark, Armwood High's Eric Smith will have to sift through plenty of mail and scholarship offers when making a college decision. Florida, Florida State and Miami have already offered a scholarship. Notre Dame is sending its fair share of mail to the 6-foot, 230 pound bruiser, with reported 4.57 speed in the 40-yard dash.

Back in Seffner, Fla., Smith and head coach Sean Callahan have discussed going after the record this season. They just don't want to look like poor sports in trying to achieve the goal.

"We've talked about it, to let him go loose one game and break his Dad's record," Callahan said. "When his dad played he was the only guy. We have a lot of guys we can spread the ball around to. We also try to be careful not to run the score up and what not, but he deserves a chance to do that. He could easily rush for 500 yards in one game, but we have so many mouths to feed here."

Smith dislocated his elbow in the opener last season, and didn't return until right before the playoffs. In four games, he averaged 11 yards per carry, rushing for 525 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a sophomore he ran for nearly 1,600 yards and 25 touchdowns for one of the best programs in the state.

Every time Florida head coach Urban Meyer is in the building to check up on blue-chip verbal commit Torrey Davis, he pulls Smith off to the side for a moment to say hello.

"When he runs, he tears the ground up," Callahan said. "There is grass and dirt flying from his shoes behind him. When he gets into the secondary, you can tell those guys don't want to tackle him.

"He's a big back that is really explosive on his first move. He is a north-south runner that isn't going to try and beat anybody around the corner, because he knows he won't be able to make a living off that on the next levels. He is a complete back. He catches the ball better than any back I've ever had. He blocks better than anybody I've ever had.

Recently, Callahan's had running backs Kalvin Bailey who originally signed with Iowa, and Demetrius McCray who inked with Indiana.

"My vision and me being a big back," Smith said of his strengths. "People underestimate my speed sometimes because I am so big. That's when I out run them or whatever."

Smith was hoping to maybe break his father's record this past year, or at least have a huge season before the injury.

"It was real hard, especially missing the game televised on ESPN (against Tampa Bay Jefferson High)," Smith said. "That was the hardest, watching everybody doing their thing, I had to sit on the sideline and chill, and become a cheerleader."

Smith's father went on to play at Louisville. He eventually left school early because he was homesick. Two of Smith's uncles left school for the same reason. Those have been the guys keeping on Eric and his 2.8 GPA, making sure he is doing what he needs to do to be ready for college.

"I have so many role models and examples teaching me how to get to the right place," Smith said. "I had so many people in my family that could've went pro, but they decided to come home and never went back to college.

"Basically my father, he's not going to tell me he doesn't want me to go out of state, but he went out of state and the college life was faster. He told me he went to Louisville and he didn't have any friends other than his best friend who he went with. He came home over Christmas break his sophomore year and decided to never go back.

"If I come back, he's not going to let me stay. He is going to push me out of here."

Possibly back to Notre Dame.

There isn't too many schools outside the state, Smith is considering, but Notre Dame is right there with Georgia, Alabama and LSU.

"Because they are a winning program and have a great coach," Smith said about Notre Dame. "I see they run the ball some also. That is a big factor. They just don't pass."

Any school thinking of using Smith as a fullback on the next level, will be crossed off the list of consideration.

"He should never have to put his hand down in the dirt," Callahan stated. "If you look at the game in the NFL, it has kind of changed to the pound it style with a bigger back. Look at the Bears with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. Eric is the kind of guy you can pound it with, and if he breaks through is going to score.

"He is a guy that will play on Sunday," Callahan continued. "I think it would be sad for him to go to a program that would make him a fullback. That would be a real failure."

Smith hasn't been to any combines or camps, but plans to hit the camp in Orlando in April. He reports a max-bench press of 300 pounds and a max-squat of 415 pounds.

Smith has been on plenty of unofficial visits to Florida. He noted he would like to check out Florida State, Georgia, Alabama and Notre Dame this summer.

The father isn't the only one that takes heat from Smith around the house. His little brother, the team's starting middle linebacker as a sophomore gets some verbal abuse.

"Always," Smith stated with a laugh.

However, Petey Smith is a guy to keep an eye on in the class of 2009.

"He is the best player I've ever had," Callahan said. He has been coaching at Armwood since 1990, and has had a couple All-Americans over the years. "He is already the total package as a sophomore. He is 6-foot, 230 pounds and already runs faster than his brother. And we have no plans to move him to running back." Top Stories