Archive for Friday, May 25, 2001

Mr. Smith goes to Canada

May 25, 2001


Smith, known as much for his elusive running ability as he is for his strong arm, is relocating north of the border after signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League last week.

The migration north is the second major move for Smith, who's from Santa Monica, Calif.

"Never, I've never been there," Smith said of Canada. "But I'd never been out of the state -- I'm from California -- until I came here. I adjusted well here, so I'm sure I'll be able to adjust pretty well up there."

Smith certainly seemed at home in the Sunflower State, ranking sixth all-time at KU for career yards passing (3,870), career passing touchdowns (22), career passing attempts (569) and career passing completions (275).

After finishing his senior season, Smith even had aspirations of playing in the NFL. He worked out with fellow former Jayhawk David Winbush, adding 10 pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame to bulk up to an even 200 pounds.

But the NFL never came knocking.

"My dream was to get drafted, so I was disappointed," Smith said. "I'm glad I have the opportunity to play in Canada and to try and make it to the NFL. I signed a two-year deal up there. Hopefully, during the second year someone will be watching and give me a chance."

Smith realizes, though, he could be in store for a tough transition.

While it's one thing to move hundreds of miles across the country, Smith knows it's quite another to move hundreds of miles to another country. Throw in customs -- the Roughriders are based in Regina, Saskatchewan, which is just outside of Moose Jaw, and roughly 80 miles north of the United States near the Montana-North Dakota border -- a different currency and foreign accents, and he could be in for quite a shock.

"I'm a little worried," Smith said. "Hopefully there's a lot of people up there who can help me a little bit. Not knowing much about where I'm going, that's going to be a challenge."

Smith said he would be making between $35,000-$40,000, or just more than the league minimum of $30,000. He can up the ante by meeting incentives such as earning the starting job (worth an extra $1,000), playing in 50 percent of the plays ($1,000) or tossing 35 TDs ($15,000).

And, as luck would have it, the Roughriders are in search of a starting quarterback.

When last year's starter, Henry Burris, bolted for the Green Bay Packers during the offseason, he took 87 percent of Saskatchewan's yards passing (4,647) and 83 percent of its touchdown passes (30) with him. Former Syracuse standout Marvin Graves is the only QB on the roster to have thrown a pass for the Roughriders last season, completing 43 of 77 attempts for 667 yards and two TDs.

Smith is one of four free-agent quarterbacks Saskatchewan signed, though, joining Texas A&M-Kingsville;'s Terrance William Bennett, Lane College's Kevius Clark and Benedict College's Ramon Robinson.

But Smith is optimistic the CFL's unique rules could work in his favor, especially the 110-yard long, 65-yard wide field.

"I think it will work out better," Smith said. "I like to move around a lot, so it gives me extra room to show what I can do. I think it'll be good for me. It's mostly passing so I'll be able to display what I can do."

-- Sports writer Robert Sinclair can be reached at 832-7185.

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