Smith Discusses Thumb Injury, More

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith has been wearing a wrap on his right thumb lately, but doesn't think the situation is any cause for alarm. Smith isn't sure how he hurt the thumb, but compares it to healing from a sprained ankle. Smith also discussed the Heisman race, trying for OSU's first outright Big Ten title in 22 years and much more.

Any injury to the throwing hand of a quarterback could be considered serious. And when Troy Smith began wearing a wrap on his right thumb a few weeks ago, it caused much concern among Ohio State fans.

But Smith, who is the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, says the problem with his thumb isn't that big of a deal.

"I'm OK. It is what it is," Smith said. "It's a seasonal thing, it's a growing pain and we just have to play through it."

Smith was asked when he injured his thumb and how it happened.

"It happened a while ago," he said. "To tell you the truth, I can't pinpoint one thing that made it start hurting. It was probably a growing thing and it just got worse and worse for a while.

"It's sort of like a sore ankle, because it's going to take that pressure and it's going to take those hits. But you'll never find me crying or whining about it or making any excuses, I have to continue to play ball."

You also won't find Smith complaining when one of his starting offensive linemen is out. Left tackle Alex Boone missed the Illinois game with a knee injury and many people believe that was a big factor in OSU's lackluster performance in its 17-10 win over the Fighting Illini.

"He's a huge part," Smith said of Boone's role in the offense. "But to me, the most important thing on the offensive line would have to be the guy in the middle making all the calls so everybody can understand which ways they need to go. But even at that, I think that everybody on the offensive line is just as important. Can't say that left tackle or center is the most important, all my guys up front are just as important as the next."

When asked if he's anxious to get Boone back in the starting lineup, Smith said: "Yeah. But the thing about it is that we have such a good rotation that often times if you don't seriously and honestly look at every guy and pay attention to every number when they come in and out, you won't really know who is where and which is which and who is what."

Of course the Buckeyes didn't want to make it so interesting in Champaign last week, but the close game could be a good thing for OSU in the long run.

"I think so," Smith said. "I think it was important for us to face a game like that before we played Northwestern. You can't exclude them because we still have to play them before we play the University of Michigan. We need games like that and everything happens for a reason and everything is on course to end the way it's supposed to."

Smith explained what he learned from the close call at Illinois.

"You win some games pretty, you win some games just by the character of your whole team," he said. "I come into every game with the understanding that everything isn't going to go the exact same way you want them to go. I've said it before that sometimes it's pretty and sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's not as bad as it seems and sometimes it's not as good at it seems. So, I have that total understanding about life in general."

Smith has reached the late stage in his college career where he has just one more road game, one more home game and the bowl game.

"Man, I try not to think about it," Smith said. "For me, it's a great thing, but it's a sad thing. This will be the last time that we will play Northwestern going away with all of these guys wearing the same uniform in 2006 in November and it's sad because five years out of my life, these are the only guys that I knew. This is all I know and I don't want to see it come to an end, but the end of something is the beginning of something else new."

And that something new is a budding NFL career. Smith is expected to be somewhere around a late first-round pick.

"I try not to think about it simply because I want to be wrapped up in everything that Ohio State has to offer right now," Smith said. "I love every single one of my teammates, I love the university and I love everything that we have going on right now. Tress always tells me that the sand in my hour glass is running out, so I try to stay wrapped up with what's going on here as much as possible."

One thing Smith would like to wrap up is OSU's first outright Big Ten championship since 1984.

"That would be huge," he said. "The last time we won it was the year I was born. So, that's definitely extra icing on my cake simply because we haven't won it outright in a while. That shows you how tough it is to play in the Big Ten."

Smith was asked if he allows himself to ever dream about the Heisman Trophy. It would appear to be a two-horse race between him and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.

"Can't. Can't and I won't," Smith said. "You know, of course day in and day out you think about it because that is the most prestigious trophy besides the national championship and holding that football up. But, I love my teammates and I love what's going on here, so I can't think about that. Without these guys, I wouldn't be in this situation."

One of the guys that has helped Smith's rise is junior receiver Anthony Gonzalez. They make each other look good and Gonzalez has been especially effective on third downs. Smith explained what makes Gonzalez so reliable on third downs.

"I think his recognition of what's going on," he said. "I think anytime you get into a situation where you know and understand before the play even happens you're probably the most dangerous guy on the field. If you know what a guy wants to do simply because of the way the front is shading and shifted, I think you are probably the most dangerous guy on the field. He studies everything."

Most Buckeye fans know – but not everyone – that Smith's brother, Rod Smith, was a starting offensive lineman for the Buckeyes in the early 1990's. Smith talked more about his brother and what he's doing now.

"He's sells cars and does a great job with that," he said. "He is basically living his football life through me. I talk to him pretty much every day. He's been a great influence on the things I've done because he, I know, has a better understanding of the ins and outs of the city of Columbus and the football program. So, he helps me out all the time.

"Rod is 36, so he's 14 years older than me."

Along with his mother, Tracy Smith, and Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr., Rod Smith has been one of the biggest influences in his life.

"Oh yeah, he had a lot to do with what's going on," Smith said. "He helped me out tremendously in things on the field and off the field. That's why I think it was a great fit with me coming here because he was down here and was able to help me out."

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