Last year, a football team won three road games on its way to the championship, and the Vikings picked up the leading sacker on the team.
The downer for Vikings fans is that the team is the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League and the leading sacker, Khreem Smith, is just hoping to find a niche to make the Vikings roster.
"I really don't think about (making the rotation of the defensive line). I'm just trying to get onto special teams or something," Smith said. "It's a learning process for me changing from Arena to outdoor games.
"Arena and the NFL are totally different. It's a championship, but I'm just trying to make special teams or whatever. I have to have some patience. I'm catching on fast, so hopefully they'll see that I can do it. You've got to adjust your rush. You've got to rush your edge (in the NFL) and in Arena you rush upfield. I'm still having a little problem with it, but I know I can get back to where I was when I was in college or coming out of college."
In the Chicago Rush scheme, Smith prospered with eight sacks in a league that prides itself on high-scoring, quick action. He has no illusions of producing those kinds of numbers with an NFL team anytime soon.
He'd be thrilled to simply make the team, even though he does have a few connections to the current roster and staff. Smith played two seasons with defensive tackle Kevin Williams at Oklahoma State, and the duo was coached by defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. That last connection brought Smith to Minnesota.
"I always felt like Coach Dunbar helped me in my two years at Oklahoma State and I always told myself if I ever got the chance to work with him again I'd do it. Once we found out he was in Minnesota, my agent made a call and took it from there," Smith said.
But Smith is quick to admit that those connections won't necessarily help him make the team. His best opportunity would be finding a role on special teams – he's currently on the second-team kick return unit, among others – and hope to make the practice squad while getting familiar with the NFL game once again.
"Arena is hit-and-go. Here, you can make two or three moves or you can do little stunts with your tackle or nose," Smith said.
When asked about Williams' success, the Jamaican-born Smith flashed a smile to reveal his gold-plated front teeth and said he knew "K-Dub" would do well in the NFL.
"Something clicked in his mind in his junior year when they moved him from end to tackle. It just clicked," Smith said of Williams. "We always told him he was an athlete – big and fast – so I knew he was going to make it. No doubt about it. He's not just big and fast, he's smart. He knows his game really good."
Dunbar's influence on both Smith and Williams certainly didn't hurt their development. Williams was a first-round draft pick and Smith spent time in the Baltimore Ravens training camp in 2004 as a rookie free agent. From there, he went on to play for the Memphis Xplorers on Arena2 in 2005 and then the Chicago Rush this year. Now, he's hoping he can continue to progress with Dunbar as his teacher.
"He works you hard and makes you use your hands and use your eyes instead of just running wild, rushing wild," Smith of Dunbar. "He makes you read the blocks and all of that. He makes you be a smarter player."
Smarter and NFL-ready are two different things, however.
If he doesn't make it, he said he would try to find another NFL team. But if that doesn't work either, he has one more year on his contract with Chicago and would return to seek another championship, even if it's not an NFL Championship.
Smith Humble with Championship
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