Photo by Terance Johnson
Mundy’s Mill running back Rodney Smith is one of the top rusher in the Southern Crescent with 1,256 yards and 15 touchdowns heading into tonight’s key subregion game against Union Grove.
JONESBORO — Mundy’s Mill running back Rodney Smith runs the ball like a someone who has arrived at the pinnacle of high school football success.
But he talks like someone who’s just getting started and still has a long way to go.
In seven games, the junior has piled up 1,256 yards and 15 touchdowns on 143 carries. He has a whopping 8.7 yards per carry and leads all Southern Crescent rushers with 179.4 yards a game.
His consecutive 300-yard performances in wins against Mount Zion and Drew have helped spur the Tigers on to a three-game winning streak — its longest in two years — and has set them atop the Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A standings at 3-0 ahead of its showdown tonight at 6-1 Union Grove, who is also 3-0 in the region.
You’d think that he would be content with his success, right?
“I’m pleased,” Smith said. “But I’m not satisfied. I’ve still got a lot of things to work on in order to get better.”
Among those things, he says, is ball security. Smith said that while he’s not sure how many times he’s fumbled this season, it’s been enough to warrant him to take specific measures to fix it.
So don’t be surprised, he said, if you see him with a football in his arm in more places than on the practice field or on Friday nights.
“I walk around with the ball everywhere I go,” Smith said.
That includes practices even when he’s not directly involved, at home and at school. And other people have gotten in on the action to help him protect the pigskin.
“They see me walking around every where with it and try to punch it out,” Smith said. “It just helps me keep my mind on the importance of holding on to it.”
Despite those few fumble issues, Smith has held on to the football enough to rush for 810 yards and nine touchdowns in the last three games — a number many high school backs would be proud of as a full season total.
To be sure, Smith is not just a football specialist. His reputation as an all-region second baseman on the school’s baseball team last season preceded his football success.
He hit three homers, registered 18 RBIs and was 16 of 16 on stolen bases.
Baseball aside, Smith said he hasn’t completely shocked himself with the breakout season he’s having on the gridiron.
“I’m not really surprised,” he said. “I had high expectations this year for myself and for our team. The stakes are high and I like being a go-to guy.”
Tigers Greg Manior said he likes having the option to go to Smith.
“He’s been a great back for us this year,” Manior said. “He does a lot of things well out there and does a good job behind our offensive line.”
His ability to finish will be greatly tested tonight as the streaking Tigers head to Wolverine Stadium to take on an equally hot Union Grove squad.
The Wolverines defense as been especially salty, giving up just five points a game in its last four wins after a 39-0 setback against Whitewater.
And Union Grove running back Derrick Craine has also proven himself tough to stop with his 1,048 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Craine is averaging 7.3 yards per touch.
But Smith said the key to Mundy’s Mill’s success is not found in what their opponent is doing. Neither is it found in just his accomplishments alone.
Instead, Smith and his Tigers choose to take care of what they know they must do.
“Everything is rolling for us right now,” Smith said. “We’re on a high right now.”