When you think of Troy Smith, what comes to mind?
The Buckeye hero who lead the Buckeyes to the championship?
The guy who was running for his life against Florida?
Before I get started, let me say this...
I think Smith was the best Buckeye quarterback ever. After the booster incident, he always seemed to make the right move.
He had poise, confidence, talent, and great leadership.
During that 2006 season, he had Ohio State and its fans walking on air. Starting with that Texas game, Smith entered a zone unlike any I've ever seen for a college quarterback.
With the exception of that Penn State game, Smith was doing all the little things right. He was always throwing to the right shoulder and when there was a tight window, Smith always fit it in.
He played such a smart game. He knew he had great athletes around him and he did great job of utilizing him by giving them the ball in the open field.
Then it all fell apart.
That Florida game was not the Buckeyes we had grown used to. It was like that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine starts hanging out with Bizarro Jerry, George, and Kramer. Everything seemed opposite.
OSU's big offensive line was exposed for having the lateral movement of a zip-line.
OSU's wide receivers turned violent and started breaking ankles.
OSU's stout defense had more holes than the plot line of Lost.
And the Buckeyes' Heisman trophy winning quarterback stocked the neighborhood pond with a surplus of ducks.
It was a nightmare.
After that game, Smith's draft stock plummeted and so did his (and Ohio State's) national respect.
A lot of people will always remember Smith for just that game and honestly, it's not fair at all.
We all know Ohio State has great tradition. The special ones are forever remembered in the Ohio State's Shrine of Greatness (I know, catchy name). However, the upper room is reserved for the Legends. You know, Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin, etc...
During that infamous 49 day layoff before the Florida game, I remember talking to my dad about this. We both agreed that if the Bucks won that game, Smith would definitely be right up there in that upper room with the ultra-legends.
After all, he would have done the four most important things that Ohio State quarterbacks can do.
1. He beat Michigan every single time he played them. (Not only did he beat them, but those were arguably his best games.)
2. He had an awesome win-loss record.
3. He would have won every single one of his bowl games
4. He would have won a national championship.
Well, in the course of that one day, Smith went from being on the brink of entering the upper room of Ohio State's Shrine of Greatness to, "I don't want to talk about it."
I think most Ohio State fans have a positive memory of Smith.
I do too.
But when I think of Smith, I have this image of him in the Florida game seared into my mind. Kind of like when Eric Foreman walked in on his parents in That 70's Show.
Am I the only one?
Does anyone else suffer from this?
Again, don't get me wrong. I think Smith was awesome. I even drove two hours and paid 50 bucks to get his autograph (yes, I realize this is incredibly lame).
But I think Smith's legacy is at least a little tarnished because of that one game.
I think he'll always be remembered as a great all-around Buckeye. Especially the way Tressel still talks about him. Troy was the absolute perfect quarterback for a coach like Tressel.
He was one of those guys that led by example. He did things the right way and people took notice. Just like Tressel.
He wasn't a loud mouth, busy-body, or cheerleader. Just like Tressel.
He was kind of like an extension of Tressel to the players. It was a great consistency.
And Tressel seems forever indebted to Troy because it seems he's committed to keep his memory alive in the program.
But then again, if Tressel were to retire today, what would his legacy be?
People would say he was a great coach, but that he couldn't win the big one at the end of his career.
Just like Smith. He was a great player, but he couldn't win the biggest game of his life at the very end.
And I think that's the thing that will hurt him the most. It wasn't like it was his first game and he rebuilt. No, this was his last hurrah. His lasting memory.
It's like a spider man movie, where the geek Peter Parker became a hero. He was heading into the final battle scene against the Green Goblin except instead of a captivating battle, Spidy's web broke and he fell 50 stories and died.
So even as I try to remember the good times, I can't help but associate Troy Smith with that "epic let-down in the final scene" feeling.
What do you think?