Living up to the World Wide Web hype

The walk-on quarterback entered Tennessee in January to be able to participate in spring drills with the football team. Due to some circumstances beyond his control, he is forced to sit and wait to prove the internet phenomenon that began to circulate when he enrolled at UT.

When Jarrod and I sat down to talk after practice, he had to deflect the chants from passing teammates. One passing player joked Smith by saying, "Hey superstar." Another passing teammate joked by saying, "Can I get your autograph." With each comment, his face would turn an even brighter shade of red.

For a walk-on to be interviewed at Tennessee is not as much of a rare event as it may be at other universities across the nation, well at least recently. Kelley Washington's fast rise to superstar status made him a prime target for the occasional sound bite opportunity granted they were not all positive.

Obviously the two situations are different, but it gives an illustration how important walk-ons have become with the scholarship limitations being as they are in college football. With that said, Smith's teammates were quick to throw out the passing jokes as the eased by us that afternoon.

One would think the guy would seize the moment to poke a little fun at those who were so quick to make light of him. That was not the case at. "All the guys have been great. You think coming in that there would be an adjustment period, but they have all been wonderful."

Smith's journey to Tennessee began to roll back in October of 2002. He suffered an injury to his knee while attending and playing football for Georgetown University. "I tore my meniscus but they went in and found I had a lot of internal bleeding. They wound up immobilizing my knee." The injury cost Smith the entire 2002 season with his teammates. It is expected that the NCAA will give Jarrod a medical redshirt of his season on the DL, but he has not petitioned them yet.

Usually a tear to the MCL is not as devastating as a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament, which is becoming more and more of a common injury to college athletes. Due to the uncommon severity of his case, there was much more that would have to be done. "I kind of lost range of motion and couldn't do anything. There is a lot of scare tissue in there, but feels much better than it has."

There was one surprise when Smith arrived at Tennessee and began to rehab his knee that was slightly unexpected. The training room's Aquasizer, which is basically an underwater treadmill. "I thought, ‘I'm just going to get in here and walk for a little bit. No big deal.' Then you get in and it just…" Smith shook his head. "It is something." I have an treadmill at home myself that is hard enough out-of-water, so I can definitely sympathize with him.

The speed of play in the Southeastern Conference has always been something that amazed viewers that didn't follow on a close basis. You can hear the occasional comment of, "SEC football is faster than pro football." Obviously that is not the case, but Smith says it is tough to get adjusted to right from the get-go.

"The speed of the drops is so much quicker. You have to be so precise on them (dropback passes). No wasted time and no wasted motion. At Georgetown our drops were completely different. If we were going to do a three-step to the left, we would actually open up to the left and throw that way. The first couple of practices I was late on everything I was throwing. At Georgetown you would setup and wait for a receiver. Here it is all timed so precise."

One comment did seem to say it all. "It is just completely different game here."

On film, it appeared that Smith was a very nimble footed athlete running the offense. During his high school tenure, he made nice runs that would led me to believe he can escape the rush if he need were to arise in a game type situation. "I don't really have good breakaway speed. I like to think I have quick feet, so maybe that will help me out in the future." Jarrod's 4.6 in the 40 while in high school isn't overly impressive, but film doesn't lie … usually.

The problem seems to be what kind of impact the injury to his knee had on his mobility. "I had surgery in October and just started sprinting on it in late December. I can go on my knee now, but I just don't feel 100 percent yet." Due to the increasing interest in dual threat quarterbacks in football, it is essential to be able to move in the pocket even if you aren't the next Mike Vick. If Smith's knee gets back where it was, he could have enough speed to keep himself and his offense dangerous.

So with one year to sit and watch, what will he do over the summer? "I'll be going home for the first term and come back for the second session. I hope to get my knee back to where it was and work on my timing with the receivers." Despite not being able to play in 2003, Smith realizes the competition for Casey Clausen's soon-to-be vacant spot is going on right now.

"Coach Sanders has been great to me. He has told me where I am and where I need to be." Just by watching practice, it is very apparent that Randy Sanders likes the potential he has seen in Smith.

As for his internet legacy, Jarrod has kept a very level head. "Oh it's something you have to laugh at. People tease me about it, but it's all in fun." After sitting out the 2003 season, Smith will have the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job at the University of Tennessee. That is when the real fun begins.

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