Sad case of Onterrio Smith

Onterrio Smith's once-promising football career appears to be at an end. Released earlier today by the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, he seems unlikely to be picked up by another team.

Signed out of Sacramento, Smith flashed tremendous potential as a University of Tennessee tailback in 1999. Though competing for playing time with three guys who would be 1,000-yard rushers – Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry and Travis Stephens – Smith posted a 6.1 yards-per-carry average that season. To put that in perspective, consider that Lewis averaged 4.5 per carry that season. Henry averaged 6.3. Stephens redshirted in '99 due to his father's failing health.

One of the most electrifying runners in Vol history, Smith was a top-quality weapon. He just wasn't a top-quality person. He was dismissed from the UT program in 2000 following a string of off-field incidents that included several failed drug tests.

Smith eventually resurfaced at the University of Oregon, where he performed so impressively that the Vikings tabbed him in Round 4 of the 2003 NFL Draft. He rushed for 579 yards in his debut season, including a 148-yard performance against the Chicago Bears that set a franchise rookie record.

Despite sitting out a four-game suspension, Smith ran for a team-best 544 yards in 2004.

Last May Smith was caught by airport security with a device designed to beat drug tests and several vials of dried urine. Undaunted, he continued his reckless ways. A month later the NFL handed him a one-year suspension following a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy. That suspension was due to end June 7 of this year but the Vikings decided to sever their ties with him prior to this weekend's NFL Draft.

At age 25, Smith should be entering his prime as a pro running back. Instead, he's probably entering the post-football phase of his life.

What a tragic waste of talent.


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