All week, Rock M Nation will be celebrating the induction of its inaugural class to the Rock M Nation Wall of Excellence. Today, we welcome one of the three winners of our Tier I category, honoring contributions from players who finished their careers in the last five years.
In putting together player profiles for the RMN Wall of Excellence, I've had little to no trouble finding the words to clarify and extol the contributions of so many Missouri greats. With Brad Smith, I have no idea where to start, no idea where to end, and as such, will keep my thoughts rather brief.
If Justin Gage was "the bright spot," Brad Smith wasn't just the light at the end of the tunnel, he was the sun rising out of the east. In enshrining Paul Christman to the Wall of Excellence, The Boy and I both noted Christman's importance in putting Missouri on the national map. Smith's impact in this regard needs almost no introduction.
Just glance at his player profile. The numbers are incredible. The record books are his personal diary. Smith opened his career with a bang, and ended it with perhaps the single most program-saving performance of the Pinkel era.
More than anything, I hate to pull out the tired tagline, but Brad Smith was change we could believe in. And, more importantly, he was change recruits could believe in, placing the all-important first block in the stepping stones for the Gary Pinkel era at Mizzou.
What's your favorite Brad Smith moment? Was it the TD catch against Nebraska in '03? That last TD against Tech in '03 where he almost literally juked a guy out of his shoes and jogged 50 yards to the endzone? That "holy crap, we're actually going to win this game" long run in the deciding drive of the '05 Independence Bowl? That "breaking off the shackles" TD run against Iowa State in '04? The run that made John Kadlec yell "WE'VE got a quarterback" in his debut against Illinois in '02? The Q4 go-ahead TD run against OU in '02? The "tiptoe the sideline then burst past three guys" run against Troy in '02? The untouched 80-yard TD against Nebraska in '05?
No player in Mizzou history pulled off as many amazing plays as #16 did in his four years in Columbia. Mizzou might not have truly broken through until after he left, but this program was Brad Smith for four years, and the recruits Mizzou landed while Smith was the face of the program were the ones who ended up winning 30 games in the three seasons after he left. Continuity and table-setting matter, and over four years Smith had the most unique skill set Mizzou will ever see. Even when he was struggling, you couldn't take your eyes off of him because you knew at any moment he was going to do something ridiculous and you didn't want to take it for granted. Great runner, even greater person, and as I said in his Mizzou 25 summary regarding his comeback win in the '05 Indy Bowl (my favorite Brad Smith moment), "You simply cannot underestimate this moment when considering the trajectory of the Mizzou program. You just cannot."