Smith gets the nod not only because he brought a solid running game to the 'Fins for the first time since Nixon resigned but also because of the hardships he's had to overcome during his seven years in the NFL. When he was a rookie in 1994, he was involved in an alcohol-related car wreck that partially paralyzed teammate Mike Frier. The injuries ended Frier's career; the guilt and bad press could have ended Smith's, but he persevered, showing both contrition and character. He pleaded guilty to vehicular assault, shared his salary with Frier, and took his lumps in the papers as he languished, often on the bench, for four years in Seattle. In 1998 he went to play for the New Orleans Saints' Mike Ditka, a coach revered for his compassion and capacity for introspection and forgiveness -- oh, and for pigs flying out of his ass as well. The Big Easy was plenty hard for Smith, who again struggled. This past season, Dave Wannstedt signed Smith mainly to give projected starter J.J. Johnson some competition. Smith competed Johnson right out of a job. At a compact 5 feet 11 inches and 230 pounds, he has a bloodhound's nose for the hole, deceptively quick feet, and enough power to punish tacklers (and occasionally run over them). The 30-year-old back had a great regular season (1139 yards, 14 touchdowns), but his monster game came in the playoffs when he beat Indy with a 209-yard performance. Smith doesn't talk about Seattle anymore. (In fact teammates say he doesn't talk much, period.) He lets his game do the talking.
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