Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:47PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 4:31PM
Ohio State QB Troy Smith put up Heisman-worthy numbers this season: 2,191 yards and 26 TDs and just four interceptions.
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.
Last summer, I spent an afternoon driving around Columbus with Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith for a feature that ran in Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue. We talked about his past, his experiences at OSU and his preparation for the upcoming season.
Obviously, we decided to write about Smith because we thought he would be one of the top players in the country -- and we picked his team No. 1 in the preseason. Never would we have imagined, however, he would spend nearly the entire season atop the various Heisman lists and that the Buckeyes and Michigan would both enter their annual season-ending grudge match undefeated.
Since the story ran, I've seen Smith a few times in group situations (Big Ten media day and after the Texas and Iowa games), but last week on the phone was the first chance I'd had to catch up with him one-on-one. Our interview got pushed back to Thursday evening, just a couple hours before the Louisville-Rutgers game, to which I was en route and Smith was planning to watch. "Big game," said the quarterback. First, however, he had an appointment with his barber.
Here is my conversation with the best player on the nation's best team:
Troy Smith: What's poppin', G?
Stewart Mandel: Not much, Troy, what are you up to?
Smith: Just chilling. Getting my hair cut.
Mandel: Cool. So hey, it's been an eventful few months since I came and did that story. I know you had high expectations for the season, but did you ever imagine it playing out like this?
Smith: I could imagine it, playing out 10-0 [now 11-0], but the Heisman was not in my thinking. Good things happen to good people, and I like to believe I'm a good, humble, team-first kind of guy.
Mandel: How much has the excitement around there increased each week as this season has developed?
Smith: The anxiety level around each and every individual on the team is intense, knowing we're this close but also still so far.
Mandel: Obviously, you knew from practices what kind of offense you had, with guys like Anthony Gonzalez stepping up, but has it surprised even you how well it's developed?
Smith: I think we can be even better. You can never say we've got nothing to improve on.