Today is a great day to wish happy birthday to a Michigan Wolverine named Vincent Smith. Yes, it is also the seventh article in my monthlong series about Black History Month and the Michigan Man. You may remember Vincent from the famous “hit heard around the world” in the 2013 Citrus Bowl. Yes, you have already seen it a hundred times. (And, no, I am not even going to link the video.) Besides, that play did not define the career of Vincent Smith. There is so much more to talk about regarding Vincent Smith, so much more!
(Note-Vincent Smith (#2) is pictured here with the 2012 Michigan Football team. He is seated in the first row and is the third man from the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.)
Yes, Vincent Smith was born on this day and grew up in Pahokee, Florida. Smith was a spectacular high school player at Pahokee High School. He was a big contributor on a team that won three consecutive Class 2B Florida State Football Championships which is very impressive. Vincent was also a teammate of a young man named Martavious Odoms who was also a very good player. Odoms was one year ahead of Smith in high school. Martavious decided to go to Michigan and play in the Rich Rodriguez version of the Spread Offense. One year later, Vincent Smith did the same thing!
Smith, at 5 feet 6 inches tall and one-hundred seventy-six pounds, was small in stature, that’s for sure. However, what Vincent lacked in size, he more than made up for in speed, toughness and football “Smarts.” Bottom line, Smith fast, he was tough and he could play!
Vincent Smith was so good and so fast, that he played in eight games as a freshman in 2009. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry as a “superback” and logged 48 carries for 276 yards. He also caught 10 passes for 82 yards which made him a very productive role player. Smith also returned one kick for twelve yards. Smith had his first 100-yard rushing performance against Delaware State when he rushed 17 times for 166 yards (career high) and one touchdown. Vincent Smith’s Michigan football career was off to a very fast start. Obviously, he earned his first varsity letter as a freshman in 2009.
Vincent Smith’s role expanded in 2010. His carries almost tripled – going from 48 to 136, and his yardage shot up to 601 yards. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry and ran for 5 touchdowns. Smith also caught 15 passes for 130 yards and 2 more touchdowns. Vincent did everything he was asked to do and Michigan had a winning season (7-6) in 2010. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and Coach Rodriguez was gone in early January 2011.
Vincent Smith continued to contribute to the Michigan offense and special teams in 2011. Unfortunately, his role was reduced, but Smith continued to make plays whenever he was asked to do so. In his first start in the Hoke Era, Vincent found his way into Michigan football history on October 1, 2011. Vincent did it all against Minnesota by running for a touchdown, throwing a touchdown pass and catching a touchdown pass in the same game. He did everything but tape ankles and dispense Gatorade on the sidelines. Smith finished the 2011 season with 298 rushing yards (2 touchdowns) and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Vincent also caught 11 passes for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. He continued to return kickoffs and logged 129 yards on 7 returns. Overall, Vincent Smith was very productive. His efforts helped Michigan win eleven games and the 2012 Sugar Bowl Championship.
Vincent Smith’s productivity went way, way down in his senior year. He just didn’t have a big role in Michigan’s anemic offense. I fault the coaches for that stuff. Smith was a dynamic player and Michigan just didn’t get enough out of him in 2012.
Fortunately, Vincent Smith ended his Michigan career with some impressive numbers. He rushed for 1,269 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. He caught 46 passes for 435 yards. Smith scored seventeen touchdowns for the Wolverines and made a ton of great plays. During his career, Vincent Smith experienced some “lows” and some “highs” along the way. Here are some notable items from his career:
· Played on the first, and only, 7 loss Big Ten season (1-7-0) in Michigan football history (2009).
· He was “first” in rushing among Michigan’s running backs in 2010 with 601 yards. However, a quarterback named Denard Robinson led the team with 1,702 yards on the ground.
· Played on the first Brady Hoke team in 2011.
· Became the first Wolverine in the modern era to run, pass and throw for a touchdown in a single game (2011 vs Minnesota).
· Became a “champion” when Michigan won the first Sugar Bowl in program history (2012).
So, today is a good day to appreciate the Michigan football career of Vincent Smith. He was an excellent player who played a lot of good football on some not so good teams. Yes, Vincent Smith gave everything he had to his coaches and to Michigan. He may be “famous” for the hit he took from Clowney, but I choose to remember him for his productivity, his versatility and his physicality. Pound-for-pound, he is one of the toughest men to ever wear the winged helmet. Please take a moment , and appreciate the contributions of Vincent Smith to the great history that is Michigan football. I hope that Vincent has a very happy birthday today! Go Blue!
Check out the great post by Maizerage86 that captures Vincent Smith’s unique accomplishment at Michigan.
February 7, 2019 has three more events to consider for today. You might like one, two or all three. Here they are:
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