Troy Smith. For my money, he’s the greatest quarterback to ever wear the scarlet and gray. This may be my bias showing because he is my all-time favorite Buckeye, but to me, Troy Smith is arguably the best college quarterback in the last 15 years. Most people would argue someone such as Tim Tebow and the ridiculous numbers he put up, but in an Urban Meyer offense, there’s no doubt in my mind that Troy would have put up similar numbers. It’s unfortunate that many people, outside of Buckeye Nation, will only remember him for the 4-of-14 performance in the National Championship game and not for his stellar performances throughout his career as a Buckeye. The plays he made, the games he won will be resonate with me for as long as I live.
I have lived in Columbus, OH my entire life and I’ve loved Ohio State football for as long as I can remember. And in all my years of passion for OSU football, I have never been so captivated, so enthralled by a single player. Every Saturday that Troy Smith put on an Ohio State jersey, laced up his Nikes, and strapped on that beautiful silver helmet, I knew 3 things: we were more-than-likely going to win the game, there were going to be at least a couple of “wow” plays made by Troy, and that I was witnessing maybe the greatest Ohio State quarterback that I’ll ever see.
Troy Smith ended his career at Ohio State with a record of 26-4 as a starter. More importantly, though, he was an impressive 3-0 against TTUN. When Smith accomplished that feat in 2006, he was only the 2nd Ohio State quarterback to ever do so–joining Tippy Dye who accomplished the same feat in 1937.
OSU CAREER STATS
Troy Smith joined the Ohio State football team in 2002. In that year, he accepted the last scholarship for the ’02 recruiting class. He played in only a handful of games in 2002 and 2003, mostly as a kick/punt returner. It wasn’t until the 2004 season when Troy Smith finally got his chance to play quarterback. He began the season as the backup to starting quarterback Justin Zwick. But when Zwick was injured early in the 2nd half against the Iowa Hawkeyes, Smith finally got his chance to show what he could do. Ohio State was 3-2 on the season, on a 2-game losing streak entering the Iowa game, and were well on their way to losing their 3rd straight game when Smith took over for Zwick. Ohio State ended up losing that game against Iowa in embarrassing fashion 33-7, but, thanks in large part to Smith, the Buckeyes ended the regular season going 4-1, including a 37-21 victory over arch-rival TTUN. After the game vs. TTUN–for accepting money from a booster–Troy Smith was suspended for the Alamo Bowl that season and the opening game of the 2005 season vs. Miami (OH). Even without Smith, Ohio State was able to beat Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl and come out on top against the Miami Redhawks in the first game of 2005. Smith’s suspension wouldn’t prove costly in the games he missed, but rather in his first game back in action.
Smith returned to action in Ohio State’s 2nd game of 2005 against Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns. Texas and Ohio State came into the contest ranked 2nd and 4th, respectively. Coach Tressel decided that Justin Zwick would start the game vs. Texas, but it was understood that both quarterbacks would play. When Smith came into the game, it was clear that he was the better option at quarterback, but it was also clear that he was a bit rusty seeing that he hadn’t played in a real game in nearly 10 months. Like the Iowa game the year before, unfortunately, Ohio State went on to lose the contest against Texas, but following the loss, Troy Smith would take over as starting quarterback and he wouldn’t look back.
In 2005, the Ohio State football team finished the regular season 9-2 with losses to Texas and Penn State. Smith finished the regular season with 130 completions on 209 attempts and 14 touchdown passes compared to only 4 interceptions. After Ohio State’s victory over TTUN in the final regular season game of 2005, it was learned that OSU would meet Brady Quinn and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. This was Troy Smith’s coming out party. Smith finished the game 19-28 for 342 yards with 2 TD’s and 0 interceptions. He also added 66 yards rushing on 13 attempts. Smith’s and OSU’s performance in their 34-20 victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl vaulted Ohio State to the preseason number 1 ranking–something they would hold onto the entire regular season.
HE IS MAN
Troy Smith in 2006 was truly something special. He was easily the best player on the field in every game he played in. He finished the regular season with 30 touchdown passes compared to only 5 interceptions. Those numbers and Ohio State’s 12-0 regular season finish lead to Smith receiving the 7th Heisman Trophy in OSU history. As the number 1 ranked team in the nation, Ohio State was able to beat two 2nd ranked teams that season: Texas and TTUN. The Texas game was the 2nd game of OSU’s season and Smith’s performance in Ohio State’s 24-7 victory vaulted him to the top of voters’ Heisman list, a place he remained for the entirety of the ’06 season. Unfortunately for Ohio State, Smith’s regular season success wasn’t translated into post-season success as Ohio State fell to Florida 41-14 in what would be Smith’s last game in a Buckeye uniform. Smith won the Heisman trophy that year, but he also racked up numerous other awards. Troy won a total of 9 awards for his performance in the 2006 season. He was named a first-team All-American, the Sporting News college football player of the year, the Fiesta Bowl MVP, he won the Walter Camp Award, the Davey O’Brien Award, was named the Ohio State football team MVP, named the AP player of the year, and won the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football award for being the Big Ten’s MVP. Also, in 2010, ESPN B1G blogger Adam Rittenberg named Troy Smith the best Big Ten football player of the decade.
Troy Smith was drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Smith spent his first 3 NFL seasons with the Ravens before being released in 2010. Following his release by the Ravens, Smith signed with the San Francisco 49ers. He spent the entire 2010 season with the 49ers. He became a free-agent after the 2010 season and after no NFL teams signed him, he joined fellow former Buckeyes Maurice Clarett and Roy Hall as a member of the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. After just one season with the Nighthawks, Smith left the UFL and in January of this season, he signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. At this point, it seems as if Troy Smith will never be anything more than a backup NFL quarterback even though he’s been a decent starter at the pro level. I hope Troy gets an opportunity to start one day and he takes full advantage of that opportunity and never looks back. He deserves it. Troy may never be an NFL starter again, but that will never tarnish the great career he had as an Ohio State Buckeye.
I’LL NEVER FORGET
I’ll never forget Smith’s 2006 performance against TTUN. From his senior day entrance to the end of the game, Smith was spectacular. Ohio State and TTUN were both 11-0 entering the game and ranked 1 and 2 in the nation, respectively. This was the game of the century. The best rivalry in all of sports and the teams were both 11-0. The magnitude of this game can not be overstated. The winner would not only have bragging rights for the next year, but more importantly, the victor would head to Glendale, AZ for a chance to play for a National Championship. As you all know, the better team won that day. As for Smith, he finished the game 29-41 for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns. Smith spread the ball around like a group of 15-year-old girls spread rumors. 8 different receivers caught passes on that magical day in the Horseshoe. This is the game that will always come to mind when I think back on Troy Smith’s collegiate career. In the biggest games, Troy Smith came to play and the ’06 TTUN game was no different. Smith was outstanding. And for that, he will forever be one of our favorite Buckeyes.
Video for your enjoyment: 2006 OSU vs. TTUN