There’s a lot to talk about when looking back on the stellar three-year career Smith had as a Buckeye, but really, when you talk about Troy Smith it all starts with the Michigan game.
In three legacy-defining starts against the Wolverines, Smith was a perfect 3-0, only the second Ohio State quarterback to accomplish that feat. He completed 58.4 percent of his passes in those wins with seven touchdowns against just one interception. He averaged over 285 yards passing per game against Michigan and two of his six career 300-yard passing performances came in The Game. He added 194 rushing yards and two scores in his three games.
Considering his nearly perfect numbers against the Wolverines, it is fitting that the 2014 version of The Game will see Smith’s name and No. 10 enshrined along the Ohio Stadium facade nest to the other greats in program history.
“I’ll be swirling with emotion because everybody who had a chance to help me, to push me to embark on this type of illustrious career that I had here, they’ll be there,” he said. “It’s about me getting a chance to relish in the moment with them. Without them I wouldn’t’ be there.”
While others may have helped him along the way, it’s Smith’s name going up in the Horseshoe to join the other Ohio State Heisman Trophy winners in Les Horvath, Vic Janowicz, Howard “Hopalong” Cassafy, Archie Griffin and Eddie George as well as Chic Harley and Bill Willis.
Smith’s success against Michigan rivals any player in the history of the program, and as The Game does for so many on both sides of the rivalry, sealed his place in program history.
Growing up in Ohio, Smith was well aware of the rivalry before setting foot on campus. His foster brother played for the Buckeyes and gave him a sense of the importance of beating Michigan. As a scout team player during his red shirt season, Smith was “unfortunately” forced to wear a Wolverines helmet he said, and senior safeties Donnie Nickey and Mike Doss delivered hits that showed him there was something different about Michigan week.
Those are the memories Smith reflected on when asked how he learned the rivalry, but those lessons came at an arm’s length. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that he would step on the field against the Wolverines, and he made the most of it, relishing the opportunity to play spoiler to the No. 7 ranked Michigan team in the form of a 37-21 win as the Buckeyes underwent a rebuilding season.
“They were poised to go and do some incredible things that year so we were spoilers,” Smith said. “I had always envisioned having huge game in that game, but the ability to know and say today we don’t really have much to lose and they have anything and everything to lose. So let’s just lay it on the line.”
The next year brought the tears as Smith wept alongside Jim Tressell, his father figure, on senior day before going out and delivering a 42-39 win for the top-ranked Buckeyes over the No. 2 Wolverines.
Smith wasn’t sure if the tears would come this Saturday when his name and number are revealed in their place beside other Ohio State legends. He is sure he has a better grasp on the rivalry than he did when he made his first start 10 years ago.
“You don’t really understand the magnitude of the game until years and years and years after,” he said. “At the time you’re trying to down play it because it’s just football. You think about all types of things and it’s a feeling that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.”