Photo by Derrick Mahone
Despite rushing for 1,575 yards last season, Mundy's Mill running back Rodney Smith has only one offer coming into the season.
JONESBORO - One would think that eclipsing the 1,500-yard mark in rushing, and scoring 18 touchdowns while almost singlehandedly willing your underdog team to darkhorse status would be enough.
And if not, doing it against Class AAAAA competition — the second-largest high school classification in Georgia — should have put him over the top.
But despite his 2012 exploits, Mundy’s Mill tailback Rodney Smith still has his doubters, perhaps not vocally, but silently, as he primes himself for an encore performance this season.
“Usually if a guy runs for over 1,500 yards, he’ll get some kind of notice, or colleges will start noticing him,” Smith said. “But that hasn’t really happened yet for me. It’s okay though, because it motivates me to get better and get back out there.”
Yes, it’s true. After Smith’s stellar season, just one school — South Alabama — has offered the 5-foot-10 speedster, who also has starred for the Tigers’ baseball team as well. Smith said Georgia Tech has shown a little interest as well.
“I think they, and a lot of schools, are just waiting for the season to see how my leg holds up,” Smith said.
Indeed, 2012 did not end as Smith perhaps hoped it would, considering his fast start. With Mundy’s Mill needing a win against Ola in the regular season finale and a victory against Northgate in the region play-in game, the Tigers would’ve made their first postseason appearance since 2007.
And though they did get the win over Ola, it came with a great loss - Smith’s knee.
He tore his ACL in the midst of doing what he had done so often in Mundy’s Mill’s mildly surprising first season under coach Greg Manior — making big plays.
“Rodney ripped off a big 30 yard gain after he hurt the knee,” Manior said. “We didn’t know how hurt he was before that point.”
Chalk it up to Smith’s total package as a back. Not only does he have good vision and gamebreaking speed, but Manior said such a play showed his heart, as well as why no one should doubt the rising senior’s ability to rebound from what both Manior and Smith believe will be just a temporary setback.
“I’d say he’s about 90-95 percent recovered right now,” Manior said. “We’re looking at getting him in maybe in the second or third game. He might play a little against Lovejoy. We’ll just have to see how it develops now that we’re getting into the full swing of things.”
When Smith heard his coach’s “second or third game” prognosis, he smiled, almost as if to say he wanted no parts of missing the season opener against the Class AAAAAA runner up Wildcats.
But more than just being about getting on the field early and often, Smith said he’s anxious two dispel a couple of myths — that he won’t be able to get back to full speed after the energy, and that his feats on the field should somehow be tempered because of Mundy’s Mill’s inability to trot out a consistently winning team each Friday night.
Smith said he realizes why people think the way they do, and instead of getting upset, he uses it as fuel to make him better.
“I feel like I’m definitely underrated because of where I play, and who people think we are,” Smith said. “But I like being underrated. Even with my injury, everybody talks about taking the Adrian Peterson approach to recovery. But there are other good backs who have had this injury before that I look at, like Jamal Charles and others.
“I like looking at the underrated guys and seeing what they do.”
To be sure, Mundy’s Mill won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. The Tigers may have arguably been the best team with a losing record in the Southern Crescent last season.
But Smith said his Tiger teammates aren’t counting on being the perennial underdogs this year either.
“We definitely want to take it another step this season,” he said.