After Award Circuit, Smith and Buckeyes are Ready to Go Back to Work
By John Porentas
Troy Smith is back from his triumphant tour of the awards ceremonies. He returned to Columbus with three prestigious awards including the Davey O'Brien, the Walter Camp, and of course, the biggest one of all, the Heisman. What Smith has apparently avoided is returning with a big head to go with all that hardware and all the accolades that go with them. He also has an understanding that, like it or not, his public persona is changed forever.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"There's a mark on anybody who people put on a pedestal, whether you like it or not, whether you want to believe it or not, that's just the way it is. There's nothing that you can do about it. When I set foot on campus there was a mark on me," Smith said on his return to Columbus on Tuesday.
"When people say your name it's no longer just Troy Smith, it's Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
"That means so much to myself and my family and community back home.
"I know it (his life) is going to change, but that's even more a focus for myself to become and maintain and be the same person, even more of a reason to get down on my knees every night and pray for humility, just that, because something like this I'm sure the average person is not used to and it can really blow you up, but I'm going to try with every ounce of energy in my body to not let that happen, because I don't believe in that, in bragging and boasting about things," Smith said.
"I believe in team effort in anything. I think with a strong team behind me I'll be able to do just that."
Smith seems determined not to let his public notoriety impact the way he sees himself as a person or a football player.
"I think that the only time that literally this title (Heisman winner) is going to go with me is when my name is written in newspapers or magazines and things like that.
"When I walk around the university or my neighborhood, I'm just a regular guy," said Smith.
If you're a Buckeye fan you're probably relieved to be hearing things like that from Smith. You'll be more relieved to know that it isn't just Smith that is saying those things. Those who know him and are close to him are saying very similar things as well.
"I don't really worry about getting him back to earth or anything. He's pretty well grounded anyway, so he'll be fine," said OSU quarterback coach Joe Daniels.
"I don't really worry about any kind of letdown or anything like that, or any lack of focus. Not from Troy, not from any of our guys," Daniels said.
Smith's head seems to be screwed on correctly even after the award circuit. He has missed some practice, but ironically, what was being cast as a problem after the Michigan game, OSU's long layoff before the bowl game, may actually turn into an asset for Smith as he comes back to get ready to take on Florida in the national championship game.
"The time lapse between the Michigan game and the championship game, everybody was very concerned about that, but I don't think that's a problem because of the way we practice and the way we have practiced over the last few years, it sort of fit in for us," said Daniels.
"With all of this with Troy, I think it's worked out pretty well. We've got plenty of time to get ready now and get serious about this and get some good practicing in the rest of this week and next week. Then send them home and then head out to Phoenix and continue the preparations," Daniels said.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"He's ready to go," said OSU offensive lineman Doug Datish.
"We've been talking about it since we got here (back to Columbus from New York).
"I think that he's been surrounded by different media people and all the people that want to praise him so much, but I think he wants to be back to work with us. Since I've been here we've been talking about the game.
"I think that Troy could not practice this whole time and not watch any film this whole time and still be ready to play that game and still do fine. This was a little bit of a distraction, I know it's tiring traveling all over the country to do different things, but he won't be affected at all by it I don't think," Datish said.
Like Daniels, Datish sees the late date of the game against Florida as an advantage for the Buckeyes that can offset the delay in the start of bowl practices that was caused by the award circuit
"It allows us to game-plan slower, try things out, really study the game and really study what we want to do and make our best educated guess about what's going to work and what doesn't work," said Datish.
"Right now we're working our way back into the game-planning aspect of it. Now that the coaches are back from recruiting and and we're back from the award ceremonies we'll really get back with it."
OSU has had some workouts since the Michigan game, and Datish says they have been fruitful, though somewhat different with key personnel like Smith, Laurinaitis and Pitcock away on other business.
"We had a bunch of guys out, so practice was a little different, a little disconnected I guess would be the right word," said Datish.
"We've been banging pretty hard. It's been pretty physical which is good I guess. The young guys have really started learning the offense after playing on scout team all year. It's their time to shine really at this early stage."
As for Smith, he is having little problem in getting himself mentally into the Florida game now that he is back.
"It's the game of the games," he said.
" No more games will be played, this is the last one. If you can't get up for this game there's something wrong with you, simply because you have a chance to play a worthy opponent, a very, very worthy opponent. Game planning won't be a problem for us because everybody who gets a chance to come with us to this bowl game will be ready."
* OSU quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels was flattered that Smith mentioned him specifically when he was presented the Heisman Trophy. Smith referred to him as "this short guy" who told him he could play quarterback at Ohio State. Daniels couldn't resist sending a good-natured barb back to Smith on Monday.
"That was wonderful. Of course, if he has one more short joke he's down to second team," said Daniels.
* Smith did not actually return to Columbus with the Heisman Trophy. It is being shipped back to Ohio. According to Smith, that is being done at the advice of OSU Sports Information Director Steve Snapp who reminded Smith of a problem that came up for the last OSU Heisman winner, Eddie George, when George elected to carry his trophy back to Columbus.
"No, because Eddie's finger got bent, and I didn't want that to happen to mine," said Smith when asked if he had brought his trophy with him. George's trophy was damaged while going through a security check on the way back to Columbus.