Allen Smith: Winning Big Game in 2007 was a huge high point in my Stanford football career. Staring my first game on the road against Washington State was a moment I'll never forget. Beating Notre Dame this weekend ranks up there as one of the sweetest victories we've had since I've been here. Unfortunately, in a lot of the big games that might come to mind—the two USC victories in 2007 and this year, and the victory over Oregon—I was out due to injury and couldn't be a part of those. But definitely beating Cal in 2007 and Notre Dame this year were some of the happiest victories I've had.
Q: You've played with a number of offensive linemen in your time on The Farm. Throughout those six years, who has really stood out to you?
A: I am very impressed with the way David DeCastro has played as a young player, as a young offensive guard. I think as far as a young guy, he's one of the best to do it in a long time. Given his youth and the nature of the position, it's really difficult to come in and play young. I remember when I came in and played young, I don't think I handled it nearly as well as him. So I think that in the future he will be a big-name guy for us, and anchor down the offensive line for years to come.
Chase Beeler at the center position does a remarkable job of making sure that we never have a negative play, and making our assignments in the way we need them to be. Definitely as far as the guard and center positions, those are two of the best I've been around.
But equally great was Josiah Vinson, some fans will recognize that name from a few years ago. He was just a 310-pound earthmover, which you really can't teach. So he was a great one. Then, of course, my classmate Alex Fletcher was the crème de la crème when it comes to center. So having the ability to play with those guys throughout my career makes me feel really fortunate.
Q: What's your relationship with Moose Martin like?
A: Moose is like my little brother. I saw him come in as a young guy last year. I saw that he had the build, the feet. He had all the makings of an excellent offensive tackle, especially in the Pac-10 and even in the NFL. I saw his potential and really wanted to work with him so that he could realize it as soon as possible. Later on in spring ball, I tried to teach him some things. I spent a lot of the 2008 season coaching him but of course I wasn't out there on the field, so to finally be out there again and to work with him, and prove to him that I knew what I was talking about, definitely gave me the upper hand in terms of him taking my coaching points. In general, we have a great relationship, and I know that we couldn't have the success we've had this year without him. As much as I would have liked to have played—and I played as much as I could given my injuries—he did an excellent job of stepping up and filling in and anchoring the offensive line down the stretch. For that, I'm definitely grateful to him, but at the same time, he's still a young guy in my eyes.
Q: The offensive line has begun to receive a number of accolades this season as you've blocked for a premier Heisman candidate. What's it like to block for someone like Toby Gerhart?
A: You block with a lot of pride when you've got a guy like that running behind you in the backfield. You have a lot of pride in keeping him clean and making sure he gets big runs and adequate holes. During the Arizona game, when I missed a block that would have gotten him an extra seven or eight yards, I remember going back to the huddle and apologizing and saying, "I'm sorry, I messed it up, I'll get it for you next time." You see the kind of intensity he runs with on every single play, and you see the heart he bring to every single snap, and you just want to keep up, you want to play on that level. So if a guy is working that hard—and he's not just working that hard to get to New York, he's working that hard for us—the only way to adequately respect a guy like that is to work your tail off and make sure that he can get the most that he can so that he can get recognized. I have a lot of pride, and I know our room has a lot of pride in blocking for both Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck.
Q: Given your recent injury, the prevailing thought was that you were going to be out until at least the bowl game. I know that it surprised a lot of people when they saw you hopping around on the sideline. How did you come back early?
A: The medical staff understands my position, they understand the nature of my senior year, and they have always used whatever technology and whatever medical methods are available to get athletes back the best and as strong as they can and as fast as they can. Thankfully, there are studies going on with the PRP injection. They've had a lot of success with that with patellar tendons and they've also had a lot of success with MCLs, so I had one of those injections right after my injury, and it's supposed to accelerate the healing process. So while I was not 100% when I stepped onto the field against Notre Dame, I was two weeks ahead of schedule, and that is entirely due to the physical therapy staff, strength training staff and the doctors who took out all the stops to make sure I got all the care needed to get me back on the field for Notre Dame, which was going to be my last game at Stanford. I told everyone when I came back for my sixth year that I wanted to be on the field, standing, when the clocks read zero. They gave me that ability, and so for that, I will be forever grateful.
Q: How are you feeling right now? Are you 100 percent yet?
A: I'm feeling great now. The game was definitely a great milestone. I was able to get out there and do some things. I felt even better at the game than I had at practice the previous week. At this point, I'm not quite 100 percent, more like 95 percent. The MCL is typically a six-week injury, and I played after four. With these next couple of weeks, I'll be able to get everything ironed out the way I want it, and I'll be feeling great. The nature of the injury wasn't very serious, it's just something that takes a little time.
Q: What was the low point throughout your string of injuries? What pushed you to fight to come back?
A: I've had injuries, but I've never considered myself injury-prone. It's been more bad luck than anything else. It's one of those things where they've all been difficult in their own way. The first injury I had in '07, when I hurt my knee against Oregon, that was a really difficult injury mentally, because at that point, I felt that I was 10 games away from declaring for the NFL Draft and playing professional football, which has always been my dream. To see that put in jeopardy was really difficult. I had to get over the anger and the self-loathing and get back to getting healthy and getting back on the field.
The fracture that I had in the spring in '08 was extremely difficult because that really put my NFL future in jeopardy and at that point, it was almost a clear consensus that I was not going to be able to play again. That was greatly concerning to me. To have fought back to that point, and to have that injury happen was definitely difficult to deal with.
But honestly, nothing can compare to this last injury that I had. The injury was so mild—the MCL, in the grand scheme of things, is not a serious injury at all. But I had worked so hard to come back for this last season and was potentially not going to be able to play my last six games after coming back and battling and achieving a starting position. To immediately get hurt on Saturday, and to come into the gym on Monday with the mindset that I wanted to be ready for Notre Dame was extraordinarily difficult, but thankfully my coaches and teammates kept a positive mindset behind me and gave me the confidence to get back in the gym and train again and get back for the Notre Dame game. The coaches are really excited about my progress, and they're talking about a starting position for the bowl game, so for that, I'm thankful.
Q: Speaking of your potential NFL future, have you heard anything from scouts?
A: The feedback that I've gotten has been very positive. I know people wanted to see me on the field this year and wanted to see some game film of me. Fortunately, there were some games where I got substantial playing time, and I had some starts in there, which definitely helps in terms of my evaluation, but of course the fact that I'm suffering another knee injury calls my durability into question. Thankfully, all my injuries are healed, and I'm feeling great, so people will evaluate me on the film put out this year as well as my testing scores. In general, people are still looking out for me, and still looking to see what I can do, so there's no doubt in my mind that I'll have an opportunity.
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