Terrelle Smith: The Gladiator

Not a single Training Camp scrimmage seems to go by without Terrelle Smith showing exactly why he was brought to Cleveland. Today was no exception, and Joe talked to the Browns big fullback about what he does, how he does it, and why he wears number 42. Find out why Browns fans are starting to love this player already...

BEREA — Russell Crowe doesn't stand a chance against this guy.

Nitro? Forget it.

While those men portrayed gladiators in movies or on television, Browns fullback Terrelle Smith considers himself to be the real thing. He spends his days smashing into monstrous linebackers and colliding with behemoth defensive linemen with no regard for his own personal health.

As a fullback in the NFL, Smith gets little glory for doing the offense's dirty work. Like the gladiators of old, he gets his satisfaction from standing over his adversary in triumph after knocking him to the turf.

"I'm a gladiator, that's basically what I am," Smith said. "I'm fighting the other guy all day long, and I never get any praise until the fight is over. There's two men who enter into the hole, but only one man is leaving. That one man better be me."

Smith, who's entering his fifth pro season, has built a reputation as an old-school fullback who would rather block than carry the ball. In four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, the 6-foot, 255-pound throwback gained a total of 150 yards on 39 attempts.

The Browns' running game didn't need another player looking for carries. What it needed was a wild man just crazy enough to take on even the meanest defenders, clearing them out of the way for the tailback to reach daylight.

What it needed was Smith.

"He brings an attitude," head coach Butch Davis said. "It's no mystery what he's about. He doesn't profess to be fancy or make friends. He's a hit-you-in-the-mouth fullback. ... That mentality becomes contagious, and it gives your team the mentality to run the football."

When Cleveland signed Smith to a four-year, $4.4 million contract in March, it brought in its first true fullback since football returned to the city five years ago. The Browns had been relying on an H-back to help protect their quarterbacks and open holes for their running backs, but never had real success with that method. Since 1999, they have yet to have a 1,000-yard rusher and were ranked 11th in the AFC in rushing last season.

Cleveland hopes Smith's presence will separate the word "mediocre" from its running attack.

"He's a really underestimated part of our offense, just because of how key he is in our passing game and our running game," Browns center Jeff Faine said. "He's a huge addition. He's been knocking guys on the ground all camp. He's going to help us down the road tremendously."

One area the Browns' offense has been noticeably weak is in short-yardage situations. Cleveland was just 6-of-18 in fourth-down conversions last year, often failing to move the chains when only one yard was needed for a first down.

The Browns' inability to move the pile on third or fourth down was a reason to acquire a bulldozer in Smith.

"That's what true fullbacks do," he said. "They're put out there in those situations to smash up in there and move people. When my team needs a yard, I get it. I don't think I've ever been stopped on fourth-and-1."

Smith, eats, breathes and sleeps football, but his life is not without perspective.

He wore No. 44 with the Saints, but will wear No. 42 this year in honor of the late Pat Tillman, who was a teammate of his at Arizona State University.

Tillman, who's No. 40 was retired by the Arizona Cardinals upon learning of his death as an Army Ranger fighting in Afghanistan on April 22, wore No. 42 in college. Tillman once carried Smith across the field after he had passed out during a conditioning drill at Arizona State, an act of heroism that has stuck with Smith since the day it happened.

"When I put that jersey on, No. 42, it makes me want to play for something," Smith said. "I wish all you guys could know him as well as we did at Arizona State. He's a true hero."

And a true gladiator.

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