Big numbers from a fast soph Football: Howard's Gerald Smith broke a 31-year-old school scoring record last week. Make a note.

September 11, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Opposing coaches get ga ga-eyed when they watch tapes of 16-year-old sophomore Howard running back Gerald Smith. They get petrified when they watch him up close and in person.

No doubt more than one coach will lose sleep this season figuring out how to stop him.

"He really scares me," said Ed Holsue, coach of the Centennial Eagles, Howard's opponent this Saturday. "He can score from any place on the field at any time."

"Explosive" is the way Howard coach Vince Parnell describes his 5-foot-9, 160-pound breakaway threat and compares him to Marco Kornegay and DaLawn Parrish, two Howard greats.

"But Gerald is better than either at this stage. He has the potential to be one of the best," Parnell said.

Smith's performance in last week's 49-20 season-opening victory over Southwestern should have sent a message. He scored five touchdowns on runs of 52 and 11 yards, a pass reception for 40 yards and punt returns of 65 and 72 yards. He had 80 yards rushing and total offense of 309 yards. He also scored on a two-point conversion, and his 32-point game broke the school record of 26 points that had stood 31 years.

"It's pretty heady stuff for a sophomore to score five touchdowns," Parnell said. Smith's 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash is part of what makes him so dangerous. He also has excellent peripheral vision and is uncanny in finding holes.

But Smith, a three-sport athlete who carries a 3.8 grade-point average, is also a dedicated athlete and student of the game he calls "my real love."

"I like a challenge, and football is a challenge," said Smith, who didn't miss a day in the weight room from 4 to 7 p.m. last summer after starting work at 7 a.m. at a Columbia nursing home.

"I figured if I was not lifting, then someone else was getting ahead of me," Smith said.

Parnell said: "Gerald has a great work ethic."

Smith thinks he's faster this year than last year, when he gained 500 yards in six games after Parnell called him up unexpectedly from the JV.

"Running track made me faster. It helped my form and taught me to lift my feet and stride and keep myself from getting tired out," Smith said.

Last season, he also played varsity basketball, a sport he has played as long as he can remember but that just doesn't excite him as much as football.

He said he doesn't worry about his football statistics or about teams possibly keying on him.

"I just worry about winning," he said. "If they key on me it will open up our receivers and fullback."

He's also not worried that Howard is smaller than last season, especially on its line.

"We're going to do better than people think because our line has heart. And it doesn't matter how big you are, because if you have heart you can lay a block. How you think -- execution -- is more important than size or speed," he said.

Smith started out life in southeast Washington, D.C., where, he said, the only way to stay out of trouble was to play sports.

"There was a lot of shooting and killing and drugs," he said.

He played on the 14th Precinct, a recreation team, and then the Southeast All-Stars. "The 14th Precinct was a powerful team, but the Southeast All-Stars wasn't, so I had to learn to do a lot of things on the All-Stars. That's when I really developed."

He lives with his father, a former standout high school linebacker who has taught him where his priorities should be.

"Getting my education and going to college is my goal," Smith said. "The education level is so high in Howard County schools. I'm not worried if I make the NFL. That's just a dream. I want a career I can fall back on -- like computers."

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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