Cleveland Glenville quarterback Troy Smith surprised a few people when he committed to Ohio State. The Buckeyes already had Justin Zwick in the fold and although they made it clear that they wanted Smith as well, the OSU coaches made no promises to him.
"That's what I liked about coach (Jim) Tressel and the rest of the coaches: They were up front and truthful about everything - they didn't promise me anything," Smith said.
Unlike West Virginia, who did promise Smith the starting QB job.
"Yeah, they did."
So how did the Buckeyes win out?
"It's sort of like I decided between something I wanted and something I needed. I think every player wants to be guaranteed that they'll start, but with Ohio State, it was bigger than that. They showed that they cared about me as a person, that they wanted to help me become a better person.
"Plus, my mom loves Ohio State. She always has."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Smith runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. As a junior at Lakewood St. Edward, he threw for 1,400 yards and rushed for 500 more. He then transferred to Glenville as a senior and threw for 969 yards (54-of-128) with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. He added 329 yards and four scores on the ground.
Glenville went 9-2 and made the playoffs, but Smith's stats were a little down from his junior year. What gives?
"I was just being a team player, rolling with the punches and just trying to win. Stats aren't important to me."
Smith began to make his mark as a big-time college prospect last April at the Nike Camp.
"I think Troy went there and surprised everyone with his arm strength and athletic ability," Glenville head coach Theodore Ginn said. "Then he was given an invitation to the Elite 11 quarterbacks camp."
Smith continued to impress the scouts at the prestigious Elite 11 camp, held last July in California.
"That was a big thing for me. Being there with the top quarterbacks in the country and I was able to stack up with them. But I was just happy to be there. It really made me humble being around all of those guys."
Smith and Zwick struck up a friendship at the camp and have kept in touch ever since.
"That's my boy," Smith said.
So much for any animosity between the two signal-callers.
"Oh definitely. College ball is bigger than you, it's all about having a good attitude and helping the team win. And I'm all for competition anyway. Sooner or later, the cream rises to the top."
Speaking of cream, what does Smith think of OSU's banner recruiting class?
"That means everything. Not many players can sit back and say, 'I'm part of the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation.' For me, it's just an honor to be accepted as a Buckeye. There is so much great tradition and I'm a part of that now."
Smith knew from a young age that he wanted to play in college.
"This is a lifelong dream - I've always dreamed about playing at the college level. Growing up and watching Buckeye games, I'd see that Scarlet and Gray and I'd get a rush through my veins."
So he always wanted to play for the Bucks, right?
"Well, not really. I actually dreamed of playing at Miami (Fla.) and then for the Miami Dolphins. I was a big Dan Marino fan growing up."
Smith described his strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback.
"I think people might say that my arm is a strength. I also make good decisions and I've worked hard on protecting the ball and making the right reads.
"For weaknesses, I just need to get a better all-around knowledge of the game. There is nothing you can't improve on as a quarterback."
There is a possibility that Smith will not end up as a QB. Tressel has said there will only be enough practice reps this year for one freshman - and that's Zwick. In the meantime, Smith will get his feet wet as a wide receiver and a defensive back (started at safety for Glenville).
"That's fine with me. I'll play wherever they need me."
But looking ahead, it's pretty hard to imagine Smith not being a quarterback at OSU. In two years, both Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen will be gone, leaving just Zwick, Smith and whoever the Bucks bring in with the 2003 class.
As for this fall, Smith is pretty much set on redshirting.
"Oh yeah, redshirting would be great. It will give me a year to learn the system. Even if I'm playing wide receiver in practice, I'll be learning the system and what the quarterback is suppose to do."
If it sounds like Troy Smith has the perfect attitude for his situation, it's because he does. Everything out of his mouth is about the team and what he can do to help the Buckeyes win. This guy is going to be a fan-favorite, even if you do have to wait five years to see him start at QB.
Special thanks to Troy for the interview!