Rod Smith is Ready To Commit…Soon!

Early last season (2008) word began to filter out of Ft. Wayne that Rod Smith was an anomaly of nature. Rumored to be 6' 3" and 220 lbs., he is a running back who pulled away from some of the fastest corners and safeties in the Summit Athletic Conference. That was enough to get my attention and the word began to spread.

I had never seen a 6' 3" running back in high school tipping the scales at 220 with after- burners. Those who watched were In agreement - he was not a typical high school running back. The most significant aspect that needs to be noted is he could play in the slot, wide receiver, and if Harding Coach Sherwood Haydock needed him to, he can be a free safety who can catch up, cover, and hit with force.

I was infatuated with this 6' 3" running back with jets! Then some began to say, well, he really is 6' 2". When I stood up and shook his hand at Harding High School and spent 45 minutes talking about his goals and aspirations, if there is any doubt, he is 6' 3" in his socks and 6' 4" in his cleats. He reminds me of the late Ricky Bell, who played at USC and at Tampa Bay back in the late ‘70's. I lived in Fort Myers and travelled to Tampa Bay several times to watch Bell play. Bell was 6' 2" and weighed 220 lbs. There are some striking similarities in the way Smith runs and the way Bell ran.

"I love to run the ball, but I like catching the ball and running with it as well," Smith told me. The film shows soft hands and the ability to get up to speed quickly. He is elusive. He has that ability to give the head and shoulder fake and then accelerate on by. Coach Haydock could run Smith 35 times a game, but he likes balance and distributing the ball around, so Rod tends to get no more than 25 carries a game. "I'm okay with that because I get to catch passes and our teammates get their touches," Smith quietly noted.

Smith has been working to shore up his academics. Like many young players, he didn't excel in the early years until several of his teachers and mentors began to follow his progress. He willing admits that academics are a struggle for him and he would be the first in his family to go to college and play football. He understands that football is a ticket to an opportunity to insure his future. Because he has improved, he will be going out for track this year. He believes that he will make an impact for his school running and jumping. "This is the first year I can run track and I am looking forward to it. I held some records when I was younger and involved," Smith said. This will be the first time he has gotten to participate as a 3 sport athlete.

It doesn't take long to find out that he has a genuine interest in Ohio State University. He wore an Ohio State sweatshirt to school, but took it off when it was a little too warm. "I have always had the dream of playing for Ohio State University," Smith admitted. He likes how OSU is committed to running the ball and it hasn't gone unnoticed that Ohio State has a penchant for big running backs. When the offer came for Ohio State, it was hard for him not to commit on the spot. But he and coach Haydock want to plan a media day to announce his decision, and according to Rod Smith, it will not be long until that happens.

You can get a gist of what a kid is like by the stories that his high school coach tells about him. Coach Haydock related this one about Rod. Coach Haydock's son was quarterback of one of his teams. He had moved the ball effectively down the field and then called a bootleg on the goal line. His son didn't get into the end zone. "I wasn't happy with his effort and decided to just give Rod the ball up the gut," Haydock bemoaned. Just before the snap, Haydock related that he saw Rod go up to his son at the line of scrimmage and whisper into his helmet. At the snap of the ball, Haydock's son dove into the end zone on a quarterback sneak. Coach Haydock then told me, "Rod told me, my son had worked hard to get down there and he deserved the reward of scoring." Smith loves the game of football and hopes to do well at the next level.

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