Oct. 23, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Frank Spaziani had his arms up and was pointing to his head. The Boston College coach wanted the referees to realize that a player had just lost his helmet and therefore had to leave the field for one play in accordance with new rules for the 2012 college football season.
Why was the Eagles' coach so eager to point out a lost helmet? Because it was Telvin Smith's, that's why. And it had just flown off the speedy linebacker's head when the Florida State junior had sniffed out a screen pass and blasted Boston College's David Dudeck for a nine-yard loss in the blink of an eye. But just as quickly as he popped up to celebrate, Smith was gone, sprinting to the FSU bench to have his helmet tightened and prepare for his eventual return. He didn't need a referee to send him to the sideline or a Spaziani arm-waving reminder because he never stopped moving.
That's Smith. He never stops. Not at practice, not in warm-ups and especially not in games.
"I like to run around a lot," Smith said. "The phrase we use, I like to run around with my head on fire. I just to run around and make plays. I just love the game and I just play hard every time I'm out there."
Miami coach Al Golden probably wishes Smith had lost his helmet a time or two in the Seminoles' game against the Hurricanes last weekend, which, like the BC contest, resulted in an FSU victory.
The junior from Valdosta, Ga. was a Miami menace in that rivalry game and finished with a team-high eight tackles and two tackles for loss. It was arguably the best game of his career, Smith's biggest play as a Seminole took place in the second quarter when his strip-sack of 'Canes quarterback Stephen Morris officially ignited the 'Noles' successful comeback from a then 10-0 deficit.
"I was just playing my role and I was just put in the position to make those plays," Smith said. "If Vince [Williams] was in there he probably would have made them or if Christian [Jones] was in that spot he would have made them. But just God be the glory I was in that spot so I made them and I had a pretty good game so I say 'thank you and let's keep rolling.'"
Smith has been rolling all season.
He has split time at middle linebacker with Williams since the start of last season as both serve in a co-starter's role. Despite not being on the field for every defensive snap, Smith is currently third on the team in tackles with 33 and third in tackles for loss with 7 1/2. He is not pace to eclipse the career-high 42 total tackles and 8 1/2 tackles for loss he registered a season ago.
And if he's not making plays, he's jumping up and down to pump up the crowd or running down the sidelines to congratulate an offensive teammate after a good play. If he's conducting an interview with a journalist or filming something for Seminole Productions, he has to do everything in his power to manage his infectious always-there-smile while he's talking.
"I think Telvin has so much success just because he loves football," FSU quarterback EJ Manuel said. "He's one of those guys that truly loves what he does. Each and everyday he comes to work, he comes to practice with a great attitude and a great mindset. He's never a guy who is kind of lagging or is like, 'Man, I don't feel like practicing today.' He's always ready to go. He's instant energy for our team -- a huge just burst of spirit for our team."
Sophomore defensive back Tyler Hunter, who was also responsible for forcing a Miami turnover last Saturday, knows better than anyone about the intensity, excitement and passion Smith has for the game of football.
The two grew up together in South Georgia and played together in high school for three seasons. The same Smith that flies around the field at Florida State is the same Smith that flew around Lowndes County High School.
"He's always been making plays since I've been playing with him," Hunter said. "It's nothing new to me."
It's that Valdosta background that Smith, Hunter and former FSU star and fellow Lowndes alum Greg Reid have pointed to as a large reason for their success.
An intense and competitive high school experience in a football-hungry and Division I prospect-producing part of the country brings out the best because it demands the best.
"I think it was just bred in me from a young age back with my little league team," Smith said. "We were just taught to play hard, love the game and respect the game. And that's what I do; I love it and I respect it."
Opposing coaches sure respect Smith. But they don't love playing against him.