Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rod Smart, Your Modern Day Vince Papale(Sort Of)

While watching Tony Kornheiser's debut on MNF last night I recognized a familiar name, Rod Smart. Smart is one of the, if not THE, only players to successfully transition from the XFL(aka Vince McMahon's Frankenstein of Football) to the NFL(without prior NFL experience).

Those of you who were fortunate enough to watch Smart play for the Las Vegas Outlaws(see Maurice there's hope for you yet) probably remember that his claim to fame was the "He Hate Me" written across the back of his jersey. It served as a motivational tool for Smart in a sort of "me versus them" way.

Eventhough I had seen him play in the NFL, most notably he was part of the '03 Carolina Panthers team that played in the Super Bowl, I didn't know much about his college or early NFL career. Here's a brief rundown of He Hate Me's football career:

As a senior at Western Kentucky University in 1999, Smart totaled 1,249 yards rushing(6.6YPC avg) with 10 TD's. He was voted 1st team All-Ohio Valley Conference. His career numbers at WKU were 2,305 rushing yards(#8 all time for WKU) and 21TD's.

In 2000, Smart attended the San Diego Chargers' training camp, but was released before the season started. He also tried out for the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, but didn't make the team.

In 2001, He Hate Me showed up in the XFL, and finished the season ranked second in the league in rushing(John Avery finished 1st). He also appeared in six regular season games for the Philadelphia Eagles before being waived at the end of the season.

In 2002, Smart was picked up by the Carolina Panthers where he played from '02 to '05. Most of his participation was on special teams coverage and kick returns.

In 2006, he was signed by the Oakland Raiders as a free agent, and will probably contribute mostly on kickoff returns.

So there you have it. Rod Smart went from WKU star to NFL/CFL washout to XFL star and then back to the NFL as a special teams ace. If Dick Vermeil(or Greg Kinnear) ever asks where he played college ball he can't say "I never went to college", but he can say "I was second in rushing in the XFL to John Avery". Also, his first cousin is Freddie "The People's Champ" Mitchell, though I'm not sure that's something that he wants known.

No comments: