It's also good that Smith is apparently keeping his weight down. Everyone felt he should play at no more than 280 pounds, but Smith went somewhere above 300 pounds at Virginia Tech for a while as a senior. Indeed, this is a guy who can have a serious relationship with a Dorito. Yet for a guy who at times has been bigger than two states—small states, of course—Smith has been disciplining himself at the trough. On Thursday he weighed 281. Happily, he finally seems to understand that his agility, speed (4.71 in the 40) and quickness are what set him apart and that too many close encounters of the sweet and starchy kind could be his undoing.
A beleaguered Stephenson runs his hand through his hair repeatedly and downplays Smith's second-team status. "We always wanted to bring Bruce along more slowly," he says. "Any young player is better off if he has a chance to learn slowly. Now I think Bruce knows he needs to work that much harder." Smerlas, who was demoted himself for a time in his rookie year in 1979, has tried to buoy Smith's spirits. He says, "Bruce has a lot of talent, but he has to make sure everybody doesn't keep talking about his potential, which is a French word meaning 'not worth a damn.' "
The Bills signed Smith for $2.6 million over four years. Smith promptly gave his parents back home in Norfolk a $20,000 Volvo, even though they would have preferred a $14,000 Buick; he also endowed a $50,000 scholarship at Virginia Tech because, Smith says, it was "a tax advantage, plus they told me it would make me look good."
Smith, while admitting he is trying to repair his battered ego, still lights up when he gets to talking sacks. "I get the quarterback in my eyes and in my scope, and I can't wait to pull the trigger. Then I think, Man, I can't wait to do it again. What I like is being a gladiator, to dominate and prevail."
Which Smith may eventually do. As soon as he advances from the second team.