All-Time Greatest – No. 15: Troy 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. 15: Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith.

Troy Smith spent his first Ohio State-Michigan game in uniform as a redshirt freshman freezing on the sideline as the Buckeyes continued their march to the 2002 national championship.

Two years later, Smith had taken control of the quarterback position and had a game for the ages against the Wolverines. The 37-21 win capped a comeback of epic proportions, both for the team and its sophomore signal-caller, and Smith continued to get better and better until his career culminated with the ultimate individual prize in college football.

Born July 20, 1984, in Cleveland, Smith was a three-sport star in high school, playing basketball and running track as well as playing football. He averaged 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds per game on the hardcourt and participated in the long jump, high jump and the 1,600-meter relay on the track.

Smith's forte was football, however, and after spending most of his prep career at Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, he transferred to Cleveland Glenville for his senior season.

The Tarblooders welcomed him with open arms as Smith took over the starting quarterback position and ran and threw for 1,298 yards and 16 touchdowns, leading Glenville into the Division I playoffs.

Despite those gaudy numbers, and the fact that he had attended the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp during the previous summer, Smith was not in huge demand as a college quarterback. Because of his size (barely over 6-0 and just north of 200 pounds), most recruiters had him slotted as a defensive back or kick returner.

Smith, however, was convinced he could play quarterback on the Division I-A level and waited until late in the recruiting process to accept a scholarship offer from Ohio State, signing with the Buckeyes over Iowa, West Virginia, Michigan State and Toledo.

Despite assurances that he would be able to compete for the starting quarterback job, Smith's first couple of years in Columbus were difficult. He redshirted during the 2002 national title season, and then was relegated to mostly special teams play in '03 as the Buckeyes used seniors Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen at quarterback.

When that duo graduated, OSU head coach Jim Tressel threw open the quarterback job in the spring of 2004, but seemed predisposed to go with Smith's classmate Justin Zwick as the new starter. Indeed, Zwick began the season No. 1 on the depth chart and led the Buckeyes to victories in each of their first three games.

Things began to crumble, however, with a 33-27 overtime loss at Northwestern, and when the Buckeyes lost again the following week to Wisconsin, Smith let it be known publicly that he was frustrated with a lack of playing time. That outburst earned him a disciplinary visit to Tressel's office, but the matter became a moot point less than a week later.

During an ugly 33-7 loss at Iowa, Zwick suffered a separated shoulder and Smith was pressed into service. He grabbed hold of the starting job and never relinquished it.

Ohio State rebounded to win four of its last five regular-season games, topped off by a 37-21 win over Michigan during which Smith had an outstanding game. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 241 yards and two TDs and added another 145 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

It was to be the beginning of Smith's magical mastery over Michigan. As a junior in 2005, he threw for 300 yards and a touchdown and added another score on the ground during a 25-21 victory, then put the capper on his senior season by throwing for 316 yards and four TDs against the Wolverines in a wild 42-39 win in Ohio Stadium.

In three games as a starter against U-M, Smith completed 69 of 101 pass attempts (68.3 percent) for 857 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception, and tacked on another 194 yards and two TDs rushing.

He also became the first Ohio State quarterback to beat Michigan three times since William H.H. "Tippy" Dye did it in the mid-1930s.

Along with his Michigan wins, Smith directed the Buckeyes to a multitude of other victories during his career. He sported a 25-3 record as a starter, and set the school single-season record for touchdown passes in 2006 with 30.

While he was establishing that new TD record, Smith was also becoming one of the premier players in college football while leading Ohio State to a perfect 12-0 regular-season record and No. 1 ranking in the polls.

He finished that season with 203 completions in 311 attempts, setting a new school single-season record for accuracy at 65.3 percent, and threw for 2,542 yards, the fourth highest single-season total for a Buckeye quarterback.

In December 2005, Smith became the runaway winner of the Heisman Trophy, easily outdistancing runner-up Darren McFadden of Arkansas. Smith's 801 first-place votes and winning margin of 1,662 points are the second-highest figures in the history of the award.

Despite all of his accomplishments with the Buckeyes, his perceived lack of size became an issue again prior to the 2007 NFL draft. Smith slid all the way to the fifth round before Baltimore selected him with the 174th overall pick of the draft.

Smith spent most of his rookie season on the bench, but when the Ravens were eliminated from playoff consideration late last year, they gave their young quarterback a chance to prove himself.

Smith responded by playing well in four games, earning a pair of starts and completing 40 of 76 attempts for 452 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Best of all, he threw no interceptions.

Smith enters the 2008 season battling veteran Kyle Boller and rookie Joe Flacco for the starting job. In the team's initial preseason game, a 16-15 win over New England, Smith relieved Boller in the third quarter and completed 5 of 12 passes for 74 yards. He also engineered a short scoring drive in the third period that resulted in the winning points for the Ravens.

Yesterday: No. 16 John Hicks

Tomorrow: No. 14


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