Every Seminole fan knows Sammie Smith. Even if he played at Florida State before your time, you still know. What you might not know, or have forgotten, was just how special of an athlete he was.
Hailing from Apopka, Florida, Smith was a multi-sport star in high school. He was the 4A state champion in the 100 and 220-yard dashes, and was all-state in football. He was once timed in the 100-yard dash at a blazing 9.2 seconds. USA Today named him a high school All-American. All of that isn’t that unusual for high school sports. But what was unusual was Smith did it all at 6’2 while weighing 220 pounds, drawing comparisons to Herschel Walker.
As Derrick Brooks puts it in the video below, Sammie Smith had the speed of a sprinter and the body and mentality of a linebacker. And he played like it. He redshirted his freshman year at FSU in 1985 under a medical hardship after suffering a stress fracture in his left leg against Nebraska. Despite sharing a backfield with Victor Floyd, Keith Ross, Dayne Williams and Dexter Carter, Smith started three games in 1986 including against the rival Florida Gators in the regular season finale and Indiana in the All-American Bowl.
After almost two seasons of struggling with injuries and trying to force things, Smith, finally healthy, broke out for a 62-yard touchdown run against Mississippi State. Then against the Gators Smith ran for 116 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown in a 13-17 losing effort, with a 52-yard touchdown called back by penalty. But he ran all over the Hoosiers on New Year’s Eve to the tune of 205 yards and two touchdowns at an insane 8.2 yards per carry average. For his performance he was named the bowl’s MVP. Despite a reserve role Smith ran for over 800 yards and six touchdowns on the season and was named a 1st-team freshman All-American by Football News.
Just a few months later in May of 1987 Smith also won the Metro Conference Track & Field Championships 100 and 200 meter dashes with times of 10.31 and 20.97 respectively. He also was the anchor on the winning 400 meter relay team.
But tragedy struck before the 1987 football season, when Smith’s brother Corey was hit by a truck while riding a motorbike, suffering head and severe leg injuries. Sammie dedicated his upcoming season to his brother, telling him he would do the best he could for him.
That year Sammie was unstoppable, rushing for a then school record 1,230 yards at a 7.2 yard per carry clip and seven touchdowns. He broke 100 yards rushing seven times, 140+ yards four times, and averaged over ten yards per carry twice. That includes an 83-yard run against East Carolina in a 244-yard effort and a 95-yard rush against Furman that to this day is the second-longest run in school history. He was ninth in the country in total rushing, averaging 123 rushing yards per game. For good measure he tacked on 21.3 yards per reception and two more touchdowns on just six catches. He led FSU to an 11-1 record and the 1987 team is remembered as one of the greatest in school history, coming within one point vs. Miami of an undefeated season and a shot at a national title. FSU finished that year beating Nebraska 31-28 in an all-time classic. Smith was named by the Associated Press as an honorable mention All-American.
Smith didn’t quite repeat his ‘87 performance in 1988, but he did rush for over 600 yards, including 115 against Auburn in the 1989 Sugar Bowl, repeating as bowl game MVP.
After FSU once again finished 11-1 in 1988 (the first ever back-to-back top 5 finishes in school history), Smith was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the ninth overall pick of the 1989 NFL Draft. He played four seasons in the league, rushing for 1,881 yards and 16 touchdowns.
In 2013 Smith was inducted into FSU’s Hall of Fame. He finished his career at FSU as the school’s third all-time leading rusher, with 2,539 yards and 22 total touchdowns.
A true legend: