In 2008, Troy Smith's golden opportunity with the Baltimore Ravens was derailed by a severe case of tonsillitis.
Quarterback Kyle Boller was struggling and the Ravens weren't ready to turn to rookie Joe Flacco. But while Smith's serious illness caused him to lose 20 pounds, Flacco took over and never looked back.
A fifth-round draft choice in 2007, Smith needed a change of scenery. Last March, Smith's agent lobbied the Browns to trade for the 20o6 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State. Released by the Ravens in preseason, Smith ended up signing a one-year contract with San Francisco on Sept. 6.
When 49ers starter Alex Smith suffered a separated shoulder, Smith got a chance to start against the Denver Broncos last weekend in London. Although he threw for only 37 yards in the first half, Smith led the 49ers to a 24-16 victory.
Smith completed just 4 of 9 passes in the first half, but came back to complete 8 of 10 in the second half for 159 yards and a TD and rushed for another score. He also committed no turnovers in his first start since 2007.
With San Francisco enjoying a bye this weekend, coach Mike Singletary announced Smith will be the starter for a Nov. 14 home game against St. Louis.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel revealed Thursday that Singletary and quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson called him to check out Smith before giving him the start. Tressel also talked to Johnson after the Broncos game.
"He said they went in a little bit conservative in the first half, knew that Troy would be excited,'' Tressel said. "They got a 3-0 lead at the half. In the second half Mike said they went to the normal plan and he was 8 for 10. The key was he made a couple big throws, one for a touchdown. He had a bootleg run for a touchdown. They were really pleased with what he did.
"They're open this week. Mike said they're going to be able to spend an extended period to try to develop what he does best within the confines of their system. I don't know the injury status of the other Smith. But it's like Troy said. In that league, every chance get you've got to jump on it. He learned that first-hand when he got tonsillitis and the other guy got the jump.''
Here's what Singletary said about Smith earlier this week, according to the 49ers web site:
(On whether his thoughts on the quarterback situation have changed moving forward) “Not other than after the game, I just thought the kid (Smith) did a nice job of kind of sticking to the game plan that we had; just kind of going in and not trying to make plays, not trying to do anything outside of the game plan. ‘We’re going to run the ball and as the game goes we’re going to get a feel for what you can and cannot do and that helps us be able to put you in position to make plays.’ And I think as the game went on, I had a chance to see some of the things that he can do and do comfortably, and that will help us going forward to do a better job of helping him manage the football game better. I thought he did a nice job of coming in and doing what we asked him to do.”
(On whether QB Troy Smith will see more work during the bye week to expand his knowledge of the playbook)
“Well, I think the thing that I want him to do, with both he and [offensive coordinator] Mike Johnson, is just sit down and get a game plan. It’s not like we’re going to add a whole lot to his plate. I just want him to get the details of what we’re doing, the little nuances of each play that he has to execute; not just where the ball needs to go, not just the progression, not just the protection, but every little thing and the steps in order to make it that much better. So, we’re just going to take it a day at a time and he’ll be here long enough to satisfy that.”
(On whether he is referring to the Rams game when he says game plan) “Possibly, yes.”
(On whether QB Troy Smith will be the starter for the Rams game) “Possibly, yes. Right now, yes.”
(On whether he has a plan to reevaluate QB Alex Smith after the bye weekend)
“Well, I think right now, we’re just going to pay attention to the trainers and the doctors and let them do their job. As coaches just continue to look at film and look at the body of work of each practice and make a decision on what’s best for the team and go forward.”
(On whether he is more comfortable with Troy Smith as a passer based off his throws in the second half of the Broncos game)
“Oh, I was comfortable with him as a passer going into the game. It’s not that I didn’t have a question of that. It was just a matter of who he was throwing the ball to, but I just think that as a passer he has a good arm. For him, it’s just the experience, just the whole package and being able to make sure that he can continue to manage the offense. Make sure that certain things like the helmet speaker going out, which we should count on every week, being able to handle that situation and doing a good job there. And he did those things and he came to the sideline and he did some of the things that he needed to do in communication. We just have to continue to look at his progression and not make it more than it is. I thought he did a good job and it’s a week-to-week thing.”
(On what he meant when, during production meetings, he said there was a lack of leadership on the offense and what he would like to see going forward)
“What I meant by that was; the quarterback position to me is the position that you may have a great arm, you may have a great mind, you may have great feet, but leadership is the ability to bring the entire offense together knowing that there are going to be times that you’re going to have setbacks. To me, it’s very important that the quarterback understands that that’s his role, in terms of making sure that guys are in the huddle, making sure that they have the right eyes, making sure that they have the right body language, making sure that if there are breakdowns on the field that he has to correct that and not allow that to come to the sideline and guys are thinking about that stuff; other stuff outside of what helps us win football games. The quarterback has to step up and make sure that that’s cleaned up, and as the quarterback does that, then the guys can continue focusing on what’s happening on the field and that’s his job. That’s a big part of his job is that leadership in knowing that, ‘I don’t care what happens, what comes or goes, we’re going to take this ball and we’re going to go downfield and we’re going to do it as a team.’ So that’s the thing that I was talking about.”
(On whether those qualities are what impressed him about Troy Smith, particularly when his helmet speaker went out)
“He handled it well. I mean he did a number of things that were good to see. But he hasn’t still; I just think that it’s important, and I told him, I want him to understand that, ‘What you did was your job and I appreciate that. Let’s just not be a one-game guy. Let’s not settle and go, ‘Hey, that’s great.’ Now, we have to continue to get better.’ We have to continue to be more detailed about what we’re doing and we’ll just take one step at a time for him. We’re not all of a sudden, we have a guy that, ‘Wow, we can do this, we can do that.’ No, you know what, we want to win football games. That is the goal. So let’s make sure that that’s what we’re focusing on.”