Oct. 7, 2011
By Leah Howard
Just don't throw it out of bounds.
That was the primary thought occupying junior running back Vincent Smith's head as he faked the run to the right and cocked back his arm for a touchdown pass to Drew Dileo in the corner of the end zone early in the second quarter against Minnesota last Saturday.
No nerves. No hesitation. Just don't throw it out of bounds.
With his incredible performance against the Golden Gophers, Smith became the first player in Michigan program history to account for touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving in the same game. He is just the sixth Big Ten Conference player to achieve the feat since 1996.
Smith, however, is unmoved by the historical significance.
"It was just another football game," said Smith. "I was put in a couple situations where coaches knew I could make plays, and I just had fun. I had a lot of fun."
Through five games this season, Smith has rushed 26 times for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He owns six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns and, with his completion to Dileo on Saturday, is 1-for-1 passing for 17 yards and a touchdown.
Simply put, he can do a little of everything.
"I'm always a hard worker at whatever I do," said Smith, "and whatever I'm doing I try to be the best at it. I just love to compete. I've gotten better day in and day out since I've been here, mainly just focusing on the little things like blocking, attacking blockers, catching and all the small things that have helped me progress along the way. I just want to make sure whatever situation I'm in, I'm ready."
As much as his coaches and teammates praise his versatility, it is Smith's toughness that typically takes center stage. At 5-foot-7, 172 pounds, Smith will always be among the smallest players on the field. But he's established an almost mythic no-fear reputation for seeking out the biggest defensive player and delivering a hit.
"He's not scared to put his nose on anybody," said junior quarterback Denard Robinson, who first met Smith while attending a handful of high school camps in their native Florida. "I've seen him put his head on Mike Martin or (Wisconsin's) J.J. Watt last year. He's probably one of the toughest guys I've seen in my life, because he will go in there and do whatever he has to do to get the job done."
"He does everything you want him to do when you look at him as a football player and how he prepares and his toughness," head coach Brady Hoke said. "Vince is a guy that you know you can count on. If he makes a mistake or doesn't do something as well, it's not for a lack of effort or a lack of toughness. He's done a good job for us."