Easygoing, polite and confident, Smith didn't complain about his backup role. "I felt I was ready against Miami," he says. "But even when Wayne Williams started against Tulsa, it still didn't faze me."
"He's a very mature, caring person," says Hall. "He cares most about his teammates."
Indeed he does. But the game against Alabama showed that Smith, only three months out of high school, was now the big shot on the Gators, and his teammates, including quarterback Kerwin Bell, a preseason Heisman Trophy hopeful, would have to care about him. Smith's success was all too sudden for one teammate: sophomore running back Octavius Gould, a former Parade High School All-America, transferred to Minnesota immediately after the game with the Crimson Tide. "I tried to convince him to stay," says Smith sadly. "I told him we'd need more than one tailback. But he made it clear he was transferring because of me."
It was a wise move for Gould, because Smith is penciled in as Florida's tailback until 1990. The week after the 'Bama game, he rushed for 173 yards on 20 carries and scored three TDs against Mississippi State. Next he ran for 184 yards against LSU. Then he got 130 yards on the ground against Cal State-Fullerton and 175 more against Temple.
And with each 100-yard outburst the Smith legend grew. His mother, Mary, recalled the time that she and Emmitt's father, Emmitt Jr., a bus driver, were watching television, and all of a sudden nine-month-old Emmitt III came crawling across the floor. "Just a little baby and already he could climb out of his crib," she still marvels. Little Emmitt always played with older kids because of his athletic skills; he had the balance to walk forever on neighborhood fences and curbs without falling off; he was the Gale Sayers of the local youth league. And now he was dazzling the big boys.
"One time in the second half he came through a hole, and I was right there waiting for him," said Mississippi State defensive tackle Anthony Butts. "I'm not sure what he did, but the next thing I saw, he was gone."
"It does something inside me to see Emmitt run," says Florida senior defensive tackle Henry Brown. "If I could, I'd steal the Heisman Trophy and give it to him. He deserves it."
What Snow deserved at the beginning was the Typical Freshman Award. If it hadn't been the fumbles, it might have been dropped passes, missed assignments or dumb penalties. "This is very confusing to me," he said at one point. "This is not high school."
No, Ohio State is not high school. In truth, it is remarkable that any freshman athlete can make the leap from Mom, home and the yellow school bus to Division I-A college football. Snow was not used to taking precise steps on each running play, nor did he know how to run crisp pass patterns or block effectively. It didn't matter that Archie Griffin himself would watch Ohio State practice and say, "Yes, Carlos is for real. He's fast, strong and quick. A little faster than I was." Talk is cheap.
"I almost think it's better if freshmen don't play," says Snow now. "Football at this level isn't fun anymore. It's very serious, like a business." He thinks a moment. "I was very nervous on that opening kickoff. As a kid I idolized Walter Payton, and I liked holding the ball like he does, like a loaf of bread. I'd never wrapped it up. In college you've got to hold it with two hands."