Just 2:46 into the Sept. 18 game against West Virginia, 51,883 people dressed in black erupted as sophomore Josh Smith raced through the south end zone of Folsom Field, giving the Buffs an early 6-0 lead.
“The ball was well thrown, and it was thrown high and away from the defense because I was double covered, and I felt like if any one out of the three of us would get to it, it was going to be me because I’m the fastest,” said Smith.
Smith’s catch was only his second receiving touchdown of his career at Colorado, and though he has only been playing football for a total of four years, it seemed like he has been catching touchdown passes his whole life.
“I’m just a lot more comfortable out there and that way the game is slowing down a little bit for me each game, and just I know what I’m doing a lot more, instead of a true freshman just walking in playing,” Smith said.
Last year’s receiving corps was very young, allowing Smith to get some big time college football action in his first year of eligibility, a rarity for most players.
In only 10 regular season games last fall, Smith caught 23 passes for 451 yards, second on the team only to current sophomore Scotty McKnight.
Through the first three games this season he has 10 catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He has become a threat on kickoffs as well, posting one touchdown and averaging 38.4 yards per kickoff return, the third best in the FBS (Division I-A).
His huge improvement this season can be attributed to a better preparation for practices and games and recognizing the details of the sport.
“Last year as a true freshman coming in, he was just trying to use his athleticism to beat everybody and play better, and now this year he is actually using technique and understanding what we are trying to get done,” said passing game coordinator and receiver coach Eric Kiesau.
The 20-year-old's performance this season hasn’t just helped the passing game, but also the rushing attack of freshmen Rodney Stewart and Smith’s nephew, Darrell Scott.
“I love that he’s [Scott] out there, because I feel that me and him complement each other real well,” said Smith. “What he does gets me open a lot by him being a threat, and me trying to build up my threat status on the outside, it pulls the guy out of the box to help cover me and opens holes for him on the other end.”
Scott, the prized recruit out of Ventura, California, credits his uncle on his decision to come to Colorado. The two played together at Moorpark High School during Scott’s sophomore and junior seasons.
Originally from Tallahassee, Fla., Smith moved to Southern California to live with his older sister and change his lifestyle, and at the same time bonded closer with his nephew and the game.
“Everybody understands how seriously they both are about the game, and they obviously have a lot of competitions and talk to each other a lot, but I think everybody on the team really respects how they work and the physical ability that they have,” said sophomore quarterback Cody Hawkins.
But who’s the better player right now, nephew or uncle? According to Smith, it’s still a mystery.
“People have their favorite of which one they like,” said Smith. “But really all it is, is that I got a year more of experience, so I’m a year ahead of him being comfortable out on the field.”
Smith plans on majoring in business management and knows he can’t play football forever. He has already been doing research on starting his own clothing and shoe line.
“It’s going to be ‘Fly-wear’,” said Smith. “It’s going to be pretty much showing an image of how I like clothes to be worn, showing a little bit of my style and image, and I’ve just been talking to a lot of people that I know that are in the clothing business, giving me some pointers and tips so I can continue to make an outline on my future.”
Though clothes may be in his future, head coach Dan Hawkins sees huge potential in Smith’s football career with Josh’s eagerness to get better.
“He’s so new and so young, he’s been great, he really has, but I think the awesome thing is that he will continue to get better, I just think as he gets more consistent, familiar with the game and the position,” said Hawkins. “He’s come a long way in a year and he’ll continue to grow.”