All-Time Greatest – No. 45: Will Smith

BuckeyeSports.com counts down the days until Ohio State's 2008 season opener with its list of the 50 greatest Buckeyes of all-time. The series continues today with No. 45: defensive end Will Smith.

Will Smith helped to redefine the defensive end position for Ohio State and helped the Buckeyes win their first national championship in more than three decades in the process.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1981, Smith was one of the top high school products in the country out of Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica, N.Y. He earned All-America honors from USA Today after a senior season that included 20 sacks. He also played three years of basketball and competed in the sprints and the long jump for Proctor's track team.

When he joined the Buckeyes in 2000, the 6-4, 265-pounder immediately saw action as the backup to starter Brent Johnson. Smith played in all 12 games that season and had 12 tackles to go with three sacks. He earned more playing time than any other freshman that year and received the team's outstanding first-year defensive player award.

As a sophomore, Smith settled in as a defensive end standout, starting 10 of the Buckeyes' 12 games that year. He piled up 47 tackles, included nine for loss and four sacks. But that was just a precursor to the 2002 season.

Firmly entrenched at DE, he upped his totals to 59 tackles and 12½ for loss, registering some of the most important defensive plays during the Buckeyes' national championship march.

Against Illinois, he forced a fumble at the OSU 18-yard line to thwart a possible Illini score in Ohio State's 23-16 win. A week later, he recovered a fumble against Michigan with just 2:02 to play in the game, stopping the Wolverines at the OSU 30 in the Buckeyes' 14-9 victory.

Then in the national title game against Miami (Fla.), Smith totaled eight tackles and another sack as the Buckeyes defeated the Hurricanes, 31-24, in double overtime.

After briefly mulling over the possibility of turning pro after three seasons, Smith decided to return to the Buckeyes in 2003 and had his best individual season. Twenty of his 49 total tackles as a senior were for lost yardage, tying him for the third-best season in that category in school history.

He finished off a brilliant career with 167 total tackles (111 solos), 46½ of which were for loss. The TFL total ranks Smith fifth all-time in OSU history behind only Mike Vrabel (66, 1993-96), Matt Finkes (59, 1993-96), Jason Simmons (56½, 1990-93) and Andy Katzenmoyer (50, 1996-98).

The end of his senior season brought several All-America accolades along with the honor of being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Projected as either a defensive end or inside linebacker, New Orleans made Smith the 18th player selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft.

He appeared in all 16 games for the Saints during his rookie season, then grabbed the starting right defensive end position early in 2005 and has had a stranglehold on it ever since.

Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2006 and his four-year career stats in the NFL so far: 62 games (43 starts), 215 tackles including 156 solos, 33½ sacks, 12 passes defended.

Once his NFL career is over, Smith plans to put his criminology degree to good use. He has said that he wants to pursue a career with the FBI.

Yesterday: No. 46 John Frank

Tomorrow: No. 44


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