The first time … the very first time … I saw Courtney Smith, I knew he was a player.
It’s just one of those feelings you get when you meet certain athletes … the way they’ve sculpted their bodies to handle the rigors of the game, the way their equipment fits, the confident swagger on the field.
All this before I ever even see ‘em play.
But over the years, though, I’ve learned to reserve judgment on whether there’s something inside the package until I talk to ‘em … see where their heads are.
For instance, I knew the Detroit Lions should’ve taken Andre Johnson instead of Charles Rogers with the first pick in the 2003 NFL draft when I heard how arrogantly he spoke to a track official … a grown man … after being disqualified at the state meet in Michigan his senior year at Saginaw High School.
Result: Johnson's a perennial all-pro. Rogers an all-pro bust who's out on the streets battling substance addiction.
So you see, as far as Courtney is concerned, he needed only say two words before I knew he was the real deal.
Just two words … but it was also the way he said them: “Yes sir.”
Now, if you’ve never heard a kid say “yes sir” in the reverent tone some of us were taught when we were growing up, you won’t understand what I mean.
But if you do, well then …
Watching Courtney on and off the field, he already had my respect: A 6-5, 230-pound junior wide receiver with speed, hands and an attitde that the ball belongs to him ... and only him ... when it's in the air.
And then, somebody told me his story … New Orleans native, parents were lost for entire month after Hurricane Katrina, he had no clue if they were dead or alive, family eventually reunited and relocated to Prattville where he played for (now South Alabama assistant head coach/defensive coordinator) Bill Clark, went to UAB, transferred to USA when Clark got the job in Mobile, etc.
So, ever since then I always seek out Courtney after practice just to ask how he’s doing, how’s he feeling … stuff like that.
Well, long before South Alabama’s inaugural game last Saturday, a 30-13 beat-down of Hargrave Military Academy, a game in which he caught 5 passes for 104 yards and a TD … a sweet 60-yard rainbow from quarterback Myles Gibbon … I asked Courtney to write his diary.
Just put your thoughts … whatever they might be … down on paper for everybody to see.
Following is Courtney's first submission ... his thoughts before USA ever took the field for its first game.
This is the day I have been preparing for − September 5, − South Alabama’s first football game.
It’s a great feeling to be a part of a historic moment in life, and here in 10 days our team and coaches will be headed to Ladd-Peebles Stadium to take on one of the best prep football powerhouses, Hargrave Academy.
The people in the area of Mobile are excited and it is expected to be a sold-out game. There will be plenty of historic moments because it will be the first time for everything, and we are ready.
Our coaches have prepped us for a battle, we have to carry out their game plan and do our jobs to be a successful team.
From the day I arrived at the University of South Alabama, I knew I would find the type of people that I could turn to who would direct me on the right track to be successful in life. These people would also be instrumental in helping me to become the man that I am growing up to be.
I have become a better person throughout all my struggles in life.
I can remember the time when my parents were lost due to Hurricane Katrina for more than a month, Coach Clark and his staff were very concerned about me. They provided me a lot of help and support so that I could find my mom and brother.
I must credit my coaches (Joey Jones, Bill Clark and Dameyune Craig) for pushing me to the limit in everything that I strive to do. Coach Craig is always there when I need to talk; he has the best advice and is like a dad to me.
I’ve never had a college coach care about me like he does, one who wants to see me be great in the classroom and in life.
He never allows me to settle for average, he wants my best no matter the situation. Coach Craig is an important part of our life − he coaches 16 wide receivers − and is a great success story with two kids that he has to look after. He’s one of the best people I have ever been around.
I've been much happier since becoming a part of the South Alabama community.
My goals in life are to obtain a degree in Communications within the next two years and become a positive role model after graduating from USA.