Thursday, December 20, 2007

Troy Smith to Start For Ravens! (Exclamation Point)

I will look forward to Baltimore's game at Seattle on Sunday the way I looked forward to the birth of my first-born child. (Note: I do not have any children.) Really, I'm that excited. In a few days, my excitement will have shifted to full-fledged nervousness. It's a little embarrassing, I realize, but's my life.

Frickin' A, Bon Jovi!

But anyway, here's what I wrote on MySpace about my man-crush a few days after the Bengals decided to pass on him more than a few times:

Troy Smith...

F**k, where do I begin? As he went undrafted on day one (mind-blowing), and ignored twice (TWICE!) by the Bengals on day two (umm...A LOT more than mind-blowing?), I felt like I was watching a family member getting hit in the head with a 2 x 4...for FIFTEEN STRAIGHT HOURS!

Admittedly, there's more than a little bias here, but don't let that screw you up too much. I care about Ohio State football like little else in my life, blinders rarely mess with my head on draft day. Consider this list of former OSU players: Nate Salley, Ben Hartsock, Anthony Schlegel, Donnie Nickey (and dozens more I'm struggling to remember). I never thought for a second anyone on that list would be anything but--at best--career back-ups (by the way, I was spot-on with my assessment). And for the record, I don't think Quinn Pitcock (3rd round) and Antonio Pittman (4th) were the steals of the '07 draft; that seemed like fair places for them to be taken. I bring this up just to illustrate my ability to think (somewhat) objectively about the Buckeyes, which—if you're familiar with me in the overwhelming minority.

Now that I've done my best convincing job, here me out some mores...

I love being right about things (this isn't a newsflash, but still). This is especially true when the topic is the future of college athletes. This is even more true when it comes to players I follow passionately, like Troy Smith. It's truthful (and pathetic), but I watched every throw of his OSU career. I also watched him sit the bench for an unjustified reason (Justin Zwick!) and an embarrassing one (taking $500 from a booster). I watched him grow by leaps and bounds, personally and athletically. He wasn't just the best Buckeye of my lifetime; he was the best team-leader I've ever seen at the NCAA level (only Shane "Moonlight" Battier and Byron Leftwich rival Troy Smith).

In November 2004, Troy Smith (a sophomore) turned in a performance for the ages versus Michigan. I was a happy boy, but not yet convinced of Smith's ascent to stardom. Weeks later, the story was leaked about Smith's involvement with a booster. I was an angry boy, but only because I couldn't watch him play in the upcoming Alamo Bowl. The way I saw the situation, it didn't matter that he took the cash; only that he didn't do it again. (Note: I may have felt differently had Zwick not been the back-up QB). As of December 2004, Troy Smith was merely OSU's QB; a guy I would root for simply because he wore an Ohio State uniform. Things were about to change. And soon.

Sometime in February (or maybe January) 2005, I listened to Kirk Herbstreit interview Troy Smith on, and I was blown away by Smith's candor. He made no excuses, and he didn't duck the barrage of tough questions. At the end of the conversation, Smith apologized to his teammates, the coaching staff and the fans. You might find it hard to believe, but I had goosebumps for the duration of his apology. Listen, I've spent approximately 3,500 hours of my life lying to, I never believe anything an athlete has to I can tell you--there wasn't an ounce of bulls**t spewing out of Smith's mouth that day. When he spoke of his teammates, I was legitimately inspired. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard. It's hard for me to imagine another human being possessing more charisma.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking my man crush for Troy Smith is making you a little uncomfortable. You're also thinking it's impossible for someone to change over night, and that I'm just drinking the scarlet and gray Kool-Aid. That's a fair rebuttal, I suppose, but all I can tell you is I heard the interview and you (probably) didn't. I would never dispute Smith's shaky character before 2005. Since then? An alter boy. I never buy into stories about bad people experiencing a rebirth (a jerk is a jerk, you know?); with Troy Smith, I'm making an exception.

As for Troy Smith the football player, I have no doubt he's a starting NFL QB. Strong arm (check), accurate passer (check), mobile (check), natural leader (check), handsome (obviously)...what else do you want? Yeah, he's only 6'0, but that doesn't concern me; I don't recall too many of his passes being swatted to the turf last year, so why would the change be drastic in the NFL. Plus, look at the success of Andy Brees, Steve Young and the Buffalo version of Doug Flutie...(lack of) height didn't relegate them to the bench...why would it for Smith?

Prediction #1: Troy Smith is the starting QB for the Baltimore Ravens by the end of 2008.

Prediction #2: Starting sometime during 2008, I will be a Ravens fan for fourteen games per season for the next decade.

Advice to Bengals fifth round pick Jeff Rowe: It would be wise not to suck.

More words Friday.

-Brad Spieser (