Nov. 1, 2006
Roughly 84,000 people pour into Doak Campbell Stadium each fall Saturday to watch the Florida State Seminoles in action. But for sophomore running back Antone Smith, only one person in that sea of fans really stands out.
“She’s just my light. She means everything to me,” Smith said of his special someone in the bleachers. In fact, so important is this person to Smith that he centered his decision on where to play college football around the travel conditions of this specific individual.
Who could have so much influence on this Pahokee, Fla., native? Who could have changed his desired college destination from Auburn, Ala., to Tallahassee?
“Basically the reason was, my mom said it was too far,” recalled Smith of his 2004 decision to attend Florida State. “I wanted her to come to games. It feels good when she’s there, to know she’s in the stands.”
Now a year and a half into his playing career at FSU, Smith freely admits that he’s very happy with his decision and loves the time he’s spent at Florida State. And why wouldn’t he? Despite having to play behind established running backs Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker, Smith has still found time on the field to demonstrate the talent that led him to 6,000 career rushing yards at Pahokee High School and his team to a state championship.
In the first five games this season, Smith has already surpassed the 188 total yards he gained in 2005. In those five games, he’s finished as FSU’s top rusher in all three victories (Miami, Troy and Rice). In the team’s two losses (Clemson and NC State), Smith finished second to senior Lorenzo Booker. He’s picked up a total of 228 yards this season, including a single-game career high of 137 yards against Rice, a game in which he also picked up two touchdowns.
“He certainly is an explosive back,” noted offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. “He’s very serious about what he’s doing. He’s very serious about football, very serious about competing, and he’s a great talent. When you’ve got those types of ingredients you’ve got yourself a pretty good football player.”
Indeed, a pretty good football player who has now joined a long line of legendary FSU running backs. Warrick Dunn, Greg Jones, Leon Washington and current star running back Lorenzo Booker have already paved the way for guys like Smith, but it’s still a tough road to travel.
“I feel good to be in a category with those guys. I’m going to try to live up to the hype,” Smith said.
In fact, Smith not only holds an ambition to live up to the standards of his predecessors at Florida State,
he’s already got his goals set for his post-FSU career as well.
“I definitely see my-self in the NFL playing ball,” Smith said. “I want to play at least eight to 10 years.”
But Smith’s motivation for getting into the NFL might not be what you expect. It turns out it goes right back to that special someone who cheers him on from the stands.
“My mom was the one who put clothes on my back, signed me up for school — all the small things instead of all the big things,” Smith said. “I’m just hoping to make it to the league and help her so she doesn’t have
to work anymore for anyone.”
According to Smith, his mother, Classie, “has been there from the beginning to the end.”
Though it was his uncle who got him started on the football field, it’s been his mother’s support in the stands that has kept him going. In addition to attending FSU’s home games, Classie also made the hour-and-a-half-long trip to Miami for FSU’s first game of the 2006 season.
But Classie’s influence on Antone doesn’t stop at the sidelines of the football field. She’s
also played a major role in shaping the person Smith is outside of Doak Campbell Stadium.
“You have to be well-rounded,” Smith said. “You have to present yourself in an orderly manner, like people respect you more than just as a football player, but as a person, too.”
Smith, who is self-described as, “always positive,” has worked hard in his two years at FSU to earn that type of respect from his teammates on and off the field.
“I have a lot of faith in Antone,” teammate Drew Weatherford said. “He’s a great player. Every game I play with him I feel more comfortable with him in the backfield. He’s doing a great job pass-protecting for me and he’s starting to come into his own and make big plays out on the field.”
Smith has a mutual respect for the redshirt sophomore quarterback, Weatherford.
“We both know what we like to do and what we don’t like to do,” Smith said. “He knows that if a receiver’s not open, he could probably check down to me and throw me the ball.”
And that’s exactly what Weatherford has been doing. So far this season, Smith has had eight receptions for 77 yards.
“With that kind of ability, we need to some-how get the ball in his hands and let him do what he does out on the football field, and that’s make big plays,” Weatherford added.
He’s not the only one.
Jeff Bowden also believes that Smith is “just going to get better and better,” over his next two seasons at
Florida State. But that future with the Seminoles might easily have been a future with the Auburn Tigers if
not for Classie Smith. That’s why, when Antone takes the field against Boston College to start the second half of the 2006 season, he will have his eyes focused on the presence of that one special person in the stands. He knows he’s got his priorities in order, because playing football comes in a very distant second to playing football in front of your mom.
By Shannon O'Neil Florida State Sports Information