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September 11, 1992 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-09-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The nan
by Albert Lin
Daily Football Writer
Walter Smith is attracted to pain.
Plain and simple. Cut and dry. No
ifs, ands or buts about it. Walter
Smith likes to inflict agony, and if he
should injure himself in the process,
*then so be it.
Football players as a whole have
been considered crazy, prone to vio-
lence, or borderline psychotic.
Walter Smith seems none of these,
but one could argue differently. How
else do you explain his need for pure
physical contact every time he steps
onto the field? How else do you ex-
plain that the most memorable play
of his brief career at Michigan isn't a
touchdown catch in the Rose Bowl,
but a hard hit he levied early on in
the 1991 season?
The only way is to listen to him
tell you. When he speaks about his
style of play, he does so in a calm
and collected manner. He doesn't get
excited. His eyes don't light up. His
voice takes a matter-of-fact tone.
You think he enjoys it, because that
is what he is known for, but you
*wouldn't know it by looking at him.
"Walter Smith might just hurt
somebody out there," says Michigan
safety Corwin Brown, no naive little
schoolboy when it comes to the
subject of big hitters. "I wouldn't be
surprised to see Walter Smith put a
couple of guys out this year. With
Walter - if you're not mentally
with it, if you're not really ready -
he'll hurt you, and hurt you bad."
The thing about Walter Smith is
that he is a wide receiver. You
know, the smallest members of most
football teams. The ones who wear
less padding to begin with, and can
be undressed even further when
catching a bone-crunching hit.
Coaches often say a receiver is soft
because he won't run routes across
the middle, an area of the field
where a player - jumping into the
air to retrieve a thrown ball - is put
in a very precarious position. Many
receivers catch the ball on outs, then
take that terminology one step fur-
ther by heading out of bounds. Not
Walter Smith.
"They can put me in the middle
and let others go deep," he says.
"They can go deep and get the
touchdown; I'd rather go across the
Omiddle and get hit and get the first
down. Not too much all the glory,

The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 11, 1992 - Page 11

The Punisher
e of wide receiver Walter Smith's game is pain

but all the contact.
"When there's a run play, I look
to give as much contact as possible,
to let the defensive back know I'm
trying to really, really hurt him. And
that's my goal. I go out and really
try to hurt defensive backs.
"I work harder in practice, I work
harder in preseason, I work harder in
the summer time, I work harder in
spring ball. That's a lot of work not
to go out and try to control defensive

he was learning as a wideout. He
transferred the physical toughness he
had always played with to a finesse
position. He became the friend we
all want, choosing to give rather than
receive. Only his presents were a lot
harder to swallow.
Smith also had help from the
most gifted of sources in learning the
finer points of pass catching. A
teammate who saw a little of himself
in Smith, and who took the freshman
aside and began to mold him in his
own image. A person who would go
on to gain national attention in the
matchup Smith will enter tomorrow,
and who ultimately won the Heis-
man Trophy.
Desmond Howard became a very
private person in his final two years
on campus. He kept a very small
circle of close friends, and now that
he's in Washington, Smith is fortu-
nate to still count himself among
them.
"When I first got here, we were
competing together. I didn't know he
was that good of a player, and my
attitude was to get here and play as
soon as possible," Smith says. "I
guess he saw my work ethic -
when he came in as a freshman he
didn't play - and he saw how dis-
appointed I was when I got red-
shirted, that he really took me under
his wing and decided to teach me
things he didn't get taught.
"Everything I do as far as catch-
ing a ball in a game, blocking a de-
fensive back, getting an 'A' in my
class, waking up in the morning and
striving to be the best, he instilled
that in me. I had it when I got here,
but I wasn't as strong as I am now.

He gave me the strength to do things
when things are very doubtful.
"I talked to Desmond the night
(Sept. 7) the Cowboys and Redskins
played. And the only thing he told
me is to go in, and when things are
down to keep your head up and keep
your poise, and play like I'm capable
of playing. And I told him the same
thing going into Monday Night
Football. I told him to give (the
Cowboys) knockout shots for me."
---
Walter Smith stands by ready to
fill Desmond Howard's shoes. It is,
of course, not a question of replacing
Howard but of maintaining as much
of his production as possible. Mich-.
igan has a trio of receivers facing
that task.
"A lot of people say the three of
us have to take the place of one man.
I don't really believe that, because
he was one man, and we are three,"
says Smith of he and his fellow
wideouts, Derrick Alexander and
Felman Malveaux. "I believe one
person can take his place, but using
his own style of play. If we all get
together and play our own style of
play, to the highest level possible, I

think we will be the best receivers in
the country."
Tomorrow's game at Notre Dame
will be Smith's first start, and he
could have the same opportunity as
Howard did last year to make a na-
tional impression. But don't count
on Heisman voters to take notice,
because Smith likely will be pound-
ing defenders while others take the
See SMITH, Page 19

'I look to give as
much contact as
possible, to let the
defensive back
know I'm trying to
really, really hurt
him. And that's my
goal. I go out and
really try to hurt
defensive backs.'
- Walter Smith

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Smith

backs.... I try to go out and physi-
cally manhandle these defensive
backs. Not so much intimidate, nec-
essarily, because 'intimidate' is you
go out and hit 'em hard one time, but
not the next. I go out and try to hit
'em hard every time."
Hit or be hit. The law of the grid-
iron. A statement to live by if you
are a football player.
Walter Smith never allowed him-
self to be hit. He was a running back
and a defensive back at Detroit
MacKenzie, both positions where
you initiate contact. He and fellow
offensive backfield mate Jerome
Bettis formed one of the most bruis-
ing running tandems around. On the
other side of the ball, Smith ran the
field recklessly, laying hits on any-
one who came his way.
When he came to Michigan two
years ago, he initially played in the
secondary. But receivers coach Cam
Cameron liked something about
Smith's game, and a frustrating
transition began.
Smith had never played wide re-
ceiver, so he was learning a foreign
position. Rather than begin anew, he
kept the talents he had developed as
a back and added to them new skills

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