Start grad threatens UT streakWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Central Michigan quarterback and Toledo native Kent Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in business management in one hand and a pigskin in the other. Recently graduated, he can focus on football, leading his team in a run for the MAC West title.
At 3-1 in the conference, the Chippewas have an opportunity to grab a share of first place. But to do so, the Start High School alumnus and his cohorts have to play the inhospitable hosts to the Rockets at 1 p.m. Oct. 29.
While his UT counterpart, Bruce Gradkowski, has received kudos in most every category, Smith has ”flown under the radar” since stepping up his play last year, according to second-year Chippewa Head Coach Brian Kelly. He said the two-time MAC Player of the Week has dramatically developed his skills since the 2004 game against UT, when Central Michigan lost 27-22.
Though Smith was a junior at the time, Kelly respectfully viewed him as an underclassman still reaching his stride.
”The one thing you would think about a senior is, he’s reached his level of efficiency. [Smith] hasn’t even come close to it,” he said. ”He’s really just a sophomore in my eyes, obviously only being a starter now a year and a half.”
Smith’s production is reaching a very high level. NFL scouts have tagged him for monitoring since he ran a 4.5 40-yard dash on Junior Day, Kelly said, and his 6-foot-5 frame helps keep Smith’s high profile in sight. The transformation parallels a rags-to-riches tale.
”When I got here, he had not played; he was really on the scrap heap,” Kelly said. ”He was
really not fired up about his football career and kind of resurrected himself.”
Smith attributed his own recent accomplishments to opportunity. A new coach and revamped offensive formation enabled him to find his groove, and settle in and ride it out for the duration of his collegiate career. The next four games in large part could determine his value as a potential NFL draftee.
”We’re still focused, but in these last four games we control our own destiny. That’s a big encouragement, and it kind of gives us that momentum into these last four games down the stretch,” Smith said.
A lesser goal would be a big W on the record against Tom Amstutz and his T-town boys.
”I definitely mark this game on the calendar every year. To get a chance to play against my hometown, that’s what I like,” Smith said. ”I look forward to this game each and every year and hope I can end my career with a victory against those guys.”
As many MAC foes have learned, chalking one up in the win column against UT can be a mighty task.
”Before you’re going to be considered a successful program, you’ve got to go through Toledo,” Kelly said.