Monday, August 30, 2010

Top 25 Buckeyes of the Decade: #1 Troy Smith

August 30, 2010

By Jim

The Buckeye Battle Cry will be counting down the Top 25 players of the past decade all spring/summer. Every Monday and Thursday, Jim will be announcing a new player. Our #1 player will be presented on Monday, August 30th. Three days later, the 2010 season officially begins. To view the previous entries in our Top 25, click here.

Troy Smith (2004-2006)

They could make a movie about Troy Smith’s journey at Ohio State. From an athlete who struggled to find a position on the team to a Heisman winning quarterback, the path Smith took was incredible, and there were many ups and downs along the way.

Troy’s transformation from an athlete into a quarterback was almost as drastic as his transformation from an immature college student into one of the best leaders to ever play at Ohio State.

Smith had a few run ins with trouble (including accepting illegal benefits that resulted in a two game suspension) but he learned from them and grew from them like only a true champion could.

When his time came to an end in Columbus, you could hardly tell the difference between Smith and coach Tressel in their demeanor and the way they handled themselves in front of the press. The transformation was a thing to behold, and just another reason why Troy was a fan favorite.

They never did catch him. 3-0

Troy started his career at quarterback by losing a head to head competition with Justin Zwick to replace Craig Krenzel. However, in the first of many instances of staying committed to the team and committed to getting better, Troy persevered and when the sputtering 2004 team needed a spark, Troy was there to jump start the offense.

Smith capped off the 2004 season with one of the best performances ever by a Buckeye against Michigan, leading the team to an upset victory.

On that day in the middle of November, Troy had 145 yards rushing, 241 yards passing, and 3 TDs. It was truly a performance for the ages in the biggest game any Ohio State player will ever play.

Things were looking good for Troy Smith and the Buckeyes. The roller coaster was at the top of a hill, but it soon came crashing back down into a valley.

Right when Troy looked like he was ready to shine, he was suspended for the bowl game and the first game of the 2005 season for accepting illegal benefits. Smith and Ohio State fans came crashing back to earth.

The suspension resulted in some rough going at the beginning of an extremely promising 2005 season (losses to Texas and Penn State). Thankfully, once again, Troy responded like a champion, and by the end of the year Ohio State fielded one of the best teams to ever wear scarlet and gray.

Troy led the 2005 team to an amazing comeback victory in Ann Arbor (2-0), and smashed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Troy Smith had once again taken Ohio State and its fans to the top.

The team and Smith rode the momentum they built at the end of 2005 and went wire to wire as the #1 team in the land in 2006. The ride from the end of the 2005 season all the way through the 2006 season were great days for Ohio State, and Smith led some of the best teams to victories in some of the greatest games to ever be played by the Buckeyes.

Victories at #2 Texas in the beginning of the year and against #2 Michigan in an epic battle for the ages at the end of the year were the crown jewels of Troy’s time in Columbus.

Troy had arguably the best year ever for a quarterback at Ohio State in 2006, and ultimately won the Heisman Trophy, capping off a perfect regular season with a bang.

He became only the second starting quarterback to lead Ohio State to three straight victories over Michigan,
and he was primed to lead Ohio State to the second National Championship under Jim Tressel.

Unfortunately, the roller coaster ride hit a serious drop in the desert that year, and the embarrassment that resulted still lingers for Ohio State fans to this day.

Smith was drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. He has remained a back-up throughout his time in the NFL, but continues to persevere and wait for his chance at a starting job.

There are many record book stats that we could get into, but to keep things brief, Troy Smith was one of the most prolific passers ever at Ohio State, and one of the winningest quarterbacks as well.

In the absence of a few serious speed bumps (suspension following 2005 season, disaster in Glendale) he would be the greatest quarterback to play at Ohio State without a doubt.

As it is, he is one of the greatest ever, and extremely deserving of being named the top player of the last decade.

For his dynamic play on the field, for his Tessel-esque leadership off the field, for captaining the most prolific offense of the decade, for 3-0 against that school up north, for demolishing Notre Dame, for the best single game offensive performance ever in The Game, for the Heisman Trophy and many other national honors, and for being a truly great and legendary Buckeye, Troy Smith is #1 on our countdown of the top 25 Buckeyes of the past decade.

I am sure I am missing some things that made Troy great, so feel free to share your own favorite memories. It is remarkable how far Troy Smith progressed during his time in Columbus, and unfortunate how that time ended.

Smith’s legacy lives on, however, and I would argue that Terrelle Pryor chose Ohio State based on the journey that Troy Smith made. Pryor has the opportunity to become the third quarterback to lead Ohio State to three straight victories over Michigan, following in Troy’s footsteps, and the 2010 offense is arguably the most talented since that epic 2006 squad.

So as the season approaches, let’s think fondly of Troy Smith’s time with the Buckeyes, hope that Terrelle Pryor can come close to that standard, and most of all, hope for a better ending to the story.

The 2010 season is here, Go Bucks!

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