There's a time to wait but for Smith, that's over

October 05, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

In the vernacular of Baltimore CFLs coach Don Matthews, Kwame Smith is a practice roster "mullet."

That's a player not on the team's active roster who prepares each week for a game he doesn't play. He is, in effect, preparing his teammates for the game.

It's nothing new for Smith, the CFLs' effervescent cornerback.

"I've always had to wait my turn," Smith said yesterday. "Even in college, I had to wait the first couple of years. I'm always the guy with the obstacles in front of him. That makes my character stronger."

Smith's number appears finally to have come up. Matthews said yesterday he expects to put Smith on the active roster for Friday's game against the Las Vegas Posse in place of injured linebacker Matt Goodwin.

Smith will replace Goodwin on all special teams and serve as a backup in the secondary.

"I'm just happy Coach Matthews has given me the opportunity," he said.

Playing on the practice roster in the low-budget Canadian Football League is no easy feat. Smith, 23 and a graduate of West Virginia, wondered if his chance would come.

"Some days I just sit and talk on the phone to my mom [in Miami]," he said. "She's the only one I can talk to. There have been days when I didn't think it would ever happen. I just try to work very hard at my skills."

At 5 feet 9 and 180 pounds, Smith provided some humorous moments in training camp with his commentary while lined up against receiver Shannon Culver (later released). More recently, he has cultivated a similar dialogue with wide-out Walter Wilson. Whether he wins or loses, Smith comes back for more.

He learned to win those battles growing up in his Miami neighborhood. He played with Baltimore teammate Mike Kerr in Liberty City. "Even the little kids are hard on you there," Smith said.

Except for his 8-year-old brother Chad, who is a quarterback back home. "He scored three touchdowns the other day, and I was real happy for him," Smith said.

He has a degree in English and is working on a masters degree in public administration. But for now, he will chase his football dream.

"I'm still young. I've still got a future," Smith said. "I try to play hard every day. You never know who's looking." Former NFL running back Robert Drummond came off the practice roster two weeks ago and made the most of it. On Saturday, he saw his first action on offense -- split out as a receiver -- and caught five passes.

He spent a year as a receiver at Syracuse and was a pass-catching back with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1990, where he was a third-round draft pick in 1989.

Drummond has exceptional speed, and gives another dimension a backfield that includes Mike Pringle, Peter Tuipulotu and Sheldon Canley.

"Because of the wider field, this is a much faster game here than in the NFL," he said. "They've got some real good athletes here. I didn't expect to see guys this fast here."

Audibles

The offensive line will undergo another shift. Keith Ballard is back at right guard, moving John Earle to center. Nick Subis becomes the sixth man. . . . CFLs owner Jim Speros has decided against moving his Oct. 29 home day game against Winnipeg to night to accommodate CBC television. But he said he probably will move it to 3 p.m. to get it on CBC in addition to HTS. . . . The CFLs have one other time change. Their Nov. 5 game at Sacramento, scheduled for a 9 p.m. Eastern start, will begin at 10:30 here instead. HTS publicist Scott Broyles said the football game will follow a Washington Capitals hockey game. . . . Josh Miller, who leads the CFL in net and gross punting, will kick off Friday's ESPN2 coverage with a live interview with place-kicker Donald Igwebuike. Miller, who hopes to pursue a broadcasting career when he's finished football, has been priming all week. . . . The Shreveport Pirates are asking Louisiana taxpayers to guarantee a loan of up to $4.5 million, but are getting a cool response. Team officials say they are expected to lose up to $2 million more than anticipated this year. "This is something that we could pay back over a 10-year period of time," said president Lonie Glieberman.

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