We have shared the story of Vincent Smith’s urban garden project a few times. With a little over a week remaining in their indiegogo campaign to raise money for the project, we are making one last push. They’re still well short of their goal of $30,000, which will expand the garden that is already in place and provide programming for all of 2014.
Thanksgiving is next week, but many of the residents of Pahokee don’t have access to, or can’t afford, healthy food. Smith, along with Martavious Odoms and Brandin Hawthorne, are working to change that. Please consider donating to help this group of Michigan Men improve their hometown.
Posts Tagged ‘Vincent Smith’
If not for Blake Countess’ pick-six last Saturday, my score prediction would have been dead-on, but I’ll gladly take an extra seven points and a defensive touchdown over getting my prediction exactly right. Now if it had been a Minnesota score to ruin my pick that would be a different story. But Michigan’s 42-13 win over Minnesota was exactly what the Wolverines needed to put the Akron and UConn games behind them.
Now, Michigan gets a chance to make a statement with a big win on the road. Penn State certainly isn’t a powerhouse at this point, but they are better than every team Michigan has faced this season save Notre Dame and the Wolverines’ recent road woes – 10-18 since 2008 – make nothing a sure bet. Is Michigan in danger of its first loss of the season? Let’s take a look at our picks:
Justin: Jake Ryan returns from injury and immediately turns Michigan’s defense into a juggernaut. He leads the Wolverines with 15 tackles, two sacks, and picks off a pass and Michigan cruises to a 42-0 win.
Ok, so that probably won’t happen, but it will be great to see Ryan back on the filed even if only briefly to start getting him re-acclimated to game action before the brutal November schedule hits. He likely won’t play enough to make much of an impact on the game, but if Michigan plays the way it’s capable of playing it shouldn’t need him in this one anyway.
Michigan has more weapons to go around, especially with the move of Devin Funchess to wideout, opening up the field for Devin Gardner. His big game last week will force opposing defenses to respect the downfield passing game in a way they haven’t had to until this point, which means the running game will be more effective. The insertion of Chris Bryant into the lineup last week gave Michigan the ability to run more of a power running game and Indiana had some success running right at Penn State last week when it wasn’t throwing the ball.
Defensively, Michigan will give Hackenberg the short, underneath throws and try to prevent the big plays to Allen Robinson. Look for Greg Mattison to dial up some pressure to force the young quarterback to make quick decisions and ultimately lead to turnovers.
The team that wins the turnover battle will win this game and with the expanded offense Gardner has at his disposal combined with the youth of Hackenberg, I think that will be Michigan.
Michigan 31 – Penn State 20
Chris: Penn State recovers from their loss last week and plays well at home, but it’s not enough.
Michigan 28 – Penn State 21
Josh: Please see yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.
Michigan 38 – Penn State 17
Sam: With the non-conference season in the rearview mirror and one win already in the books, the Michigan Wolverines take to the road for the second time in their 2013 football campaign. Three weeks and two games ago, Michigan made the trip to East Hartford, Connecticut for a night game against UConn that proved to be much closer than expected. With a record crowd of 42,704 watching at Rentschler Field, Devin Gardner overcame four awful turnovers and a 14-point third quarter deficit to lead the Maize and Blue to a 24-21 nail-biting win.
This Saturday, the visiting Wolverines will once again be playing under the lights (for the third time already this season), but in an environment that figures to be much crazier this time around in Happy Valley against Penn State. With a putrid crowd of nearly 93,000 against Eastern Michigan earlier this year, one of the smallest since 2001, and an all-time record of 110,753 in 2002, Beaver Stadium will be rocking in white-out fashion.
Luckily for Brady Hoke and his Michigan squad, Penn State is struggling through their second year of heavy sanctions to the tune of a 3-2 record. Already with a loss to Central Florida four weeks ago and a 44-24 beatdown suffered at Indiana last week, the once-proud Lions are certainly beatable this year. But if you combine Michigan’s inconsistency, a Bill O’Brien-coached offense at Penn State, and a raucous night crowd, you will find a game that will likely be up for grabs.
Christian Hackenberg, O’Brien’s star freshman quarterback, has been very good at times and sports a 60 percent completion mark and a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio; unfortunately experience is not on his side, and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will be throwing different looks at Hackenberg all night. Penn State will also have a trio of running backs in Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch who have big-play ability and all gain more than four yards per carry, but Michigan has been solid against the run for the better part of the year.
Last week’s insertion of Chris Bryant into the starting lineup at left guard seemed to open up some running lanes for Fitzgerald Toussaint, but even more surprising was a stacked offensive look with Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, and Bryant all lined up to the left of center Graham Glasgow.
If Michigan trots out in that power formation again, expect to see some play action open up deep for quarterback Devin Gardner. On paper, Michigan has been the much better team so far, but these two squads should be battling into the fourth quarter with a critical win on the line. Vegas opened the books favoring Michigan by just one point, and still Michigan is giving less than a field goal to the Nittany Lions with a -2.5-point margin.
Michigan’s confidence should be back, however, after a big win over Minnesota last week, and Penn State is still playing for pride alone. Hackenberg will throw for two touchdowns but will also lose a crucial second half turnover that Michigan will take advantage of on the way to a Wolverine win.
Michigan 31 – Penn State 24
Derick: Michigan will face it’s toughest opposing crowd of the season Saturday after nearly failing the first road test in Connecticut. If Rentschler Field was a tough venue for Team 134 to play in then Beaver Stadium will provide a very rude awakening.
Fortunately for the Wolverines the running game perked up after the shift in the offensive line and stabilized a struggling offense. Devin Gardner looked comfortable running both the play action and bootleg screens with Fitzgerald Toussaint picking up solid gains on first and second down. If he can take care of the football and make the easy passes then the defense should be able to carry the Maize and Blue to victory.
Though Happy Valley proves a tough test, I think Greg Mattison will have something prepared for freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Michigan wins the turnover battle and as a result, improves to 6-0.
Michigan-31 Penn State-24
Katie: So the Wolverines are 5-0 but it doesn’t quite feel that way. After two tough weeks where backups should have seen playing time but instead were left to watch as their teammates played for their B10 Championship lives, a win against Minnesota doesn’t exactly cleanse the palate. It was a good win, but a victory in Happy Valley is a most necessary followup. And considering that the Nittany Lions are 3-2, with a loss last week to the Hoosiers, the outlook is rather good for the Wolverines to continue undefeated.
But the Nittany Lions have been amassing more than a fair share of offensive yards per game, averaging 475. With a starter out for Michigan in Ondre Pipkins, the Wolverines could certainly use someone who is arguably the best player on the defense, Jake Ryan. to return. The counter to racking up so many yards per game however, is how many the Penn State defense is allowing. Against Indiana, the Lions gave up 486 yards and lost 24-44. If Michigan can put Penn on its heels early, with consistent throws and a good running game, they should be able to dig the Lions into a pit they can’t claw out of. The key for the Wolverines will be to do better on 3rd down percentage defensively. If the Nittany Lions aren’t able to rack up a series of long drives, it isn’t likely that their defense will be able to hold Michigan. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one, even given the hostile crowd they will be playing in front of (fingers crossed that Gardner doesn’t get rattled, or that Morris would be ready at the helm if he is).
Michigan 35 Penn State 21
For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Penn State game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with Jared Slanina and Bill DiFlippo of the Penn State SB Nation blog Black Shoe Diaries; Monday’s First Look: Penn State, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. We also featured a new urban garden campaign by Vincent Smith, Martavious Odoms, and Brandin Hawthorne to expand their Pahokee garden and build one in Denard Robinson’s hometown of Deerfield Beach, Fla. Finally, Alexandra showcased some great maize and blue fashion that you can find in and around Ann Arbor to look great on gameday.
Back in February, you helped fund Vincent Smith’s painting project with the youth of Pahokee, Fla. Prior to that, the Michigan faithful helped fund he and Martavious Odoms’ #Eating project in which they built an urban garden for the town of Pahokee. Now, the duo is back along with fellow former Michigan football player and Pahokee native, Brandin Hawthorne. And this time, another familiar face has joined in: Denard Robinson.
The group along with Team Eating just launched another campaign, this time on Indiegogo, to continue and expand the community gardens program they have already started. This campaign has three goals. First, to expand the Pahokee garden that is already up and running. Second, to add a community garden in Denard’s home town of Deerfield Beach, Fla. And finally, to add a community garden somewhere in Michigan.
Each of the three goals carries a different monetary threshold, so if $30,000 is raised the first goal will be funded, if $80,000 is raised the second will, and if $120,000 all three will be. With indiegogo, the Pahokee crew has 60 days to fund their project as opposed to the 30 days that the previous Kickstarter projects allotted and there are currently 52 days remaining. The other difference between this one and the previous Kickstarter campaigns is that Team Eating will receive all funds donated even if the project does not reach its goal.
You may be asking yourself, ‘I already donated to the previous one, why should I donate to this again?’ or ‘why should I give them my money?’. Well first of all, perhaps you’ve never been to Pahokee. I have. It’s poor, it’s hot, there’s not much around, and there isn’t a whole lot to do. There’s no major grocery store in town. It was once the winter vegetable capital of the world, but now business have closed and unemployment is nearly 30 percent. The per capita income is just over $12,000 and over 30 percent of the population is below the poverty line. Only nine percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree and the crime rate is about double the U.S. average.
Pahokee has been well publicized for its ability to produce football stars. Aside from Smith, Odoms and Hawthrone, several NFL stars have come from the Muck including Anquan Boldin, Fred Taylor, Janoris Jenkins, Pernell McPhee, and Reidel Anthony among others. The fact is football provides a way out, a way to become successful and avoid the pitfalls that abound in the small town that borders Lake Okeechobee.
While Boldin, Jenkins, and McPhee are busy making a living in the NFL, Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are dedicating their time to improving the quality of life in their hometown. They are using the garden as an opportunity to provide jobs, job training, and activities for the local youth. They’re using it as a chance to teach elementary grade students about healthy living, nutrition, and teamwork. All the while growing food to provide for the community.
Regardless of your political affiliation, we can all agree that in a time when America’s economy is struggling, people like Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are just what we need more of. People willing to invest their time into improving their communities and provide jobs and better education to ensure a better future for the youth.
The fact that the three played football at Michigan, got their degrees, and are putting them to use for the greater good should be reason enough to invest in them. We rooted for them on Saturdays, so why not root for them in life beyond the gridiron as well?
The campaign offers perks for your contributions. For example, a $1 donation gets you an email with photos from the garden; a $12 donation gets you an autographed post card from Smith; a $25 donation gets you an #Eating t-shirt; a $55 donation gets you an #Eating hoodie, and so on.
So why donate? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to teach your kids the value of giving back. Or simply a chance to support some former Michigan athletes that gave it their all for the team you root for and are now giving it their all for their community and the next generation. Or maybe you just want a cool new t-shirt to wear around campus. Whatever the reason, please consider helping them out and together we can be a part of the solution.
Fall camp is in full swing as Michigan prepares to open the season in a little over two weeks against Central Michigan. The players who have been in the program for a year or more have gone through camp before, but for the incoming freshmen, it’s a new experience and an adjustment from high school ball. I spoke to former Michigan running back and friend of the blog, Vincent Smith, about what camp is like for the incoming freshmen, what he liked and didn’t like about camp, and how it differed from Rodriguez to Hoke.
Describe the first fall camp experience for a freshman.
“It was brand new because you’re used to the high school experience and coming to a major division one high-level school and it’s going to be intense. You have to be aware that your first phase is learning and trying to catch on quick, and basically just get the plays down. Also, conditioning is a little different, getting used to the practices as well. It’s pretty fast – way faster than high school in your first experience.”
Were you nervous heading into your first fall camp?
“Not really nervous, but butterflies – that’s normal for anybody. Butterflies are what make you play good and that’s how I look at it.”
Was it tough to balance starting college with fall camp?
“Not really because you knew what you wanted to do coming into a major university. You knew you were going to have class. You knew you were going to have practice. You knew it was going to be way different from high school. That’s what you signed yourself up for, so the hard work is pretty much already in your head. It’s not really hard, it’s just how you’re going to get through it and how you’re going to maintain it.”
What were the first few days of camp like?
“The first days were mostly just conditioning and stuff like that, getting you ready for the different practice stretches and stuff like that. It’s just a learning process the first couple of days – film, practice, treatment.”
When do you start preparing for actual opponents?
“The last week. Game week is hype because it’s your first actual game in the Big House. It’s overwhelming because you’re a freshman and you’re getting into your classes and the regular school year. It’s really exciting and your family and all the football fans are ready so you’ll be pumped. All the butterflies go away a little bit once you get a grasp of the school and the school spirit.”
What was your favorite part of camp?
“My favorite part of camp overall was team bonding with the fellow teammates. You’re together a whole two or three weeks and everybody is getting to know each other. Every year the seniors get together and have a little quiet thing – sometimes we walk to the Big House and let the younger guys go to give them a little grasp of what it’s going to be like. This is our team and we’re going to lead them because they’re fresh out of high school, so just letting the freshmen know this is way bigger than high school and you’re coming here to love the traditions at Michigan. Just keep on this great legacy and look around at everything and just bond overall and let them know that we’re brothers at the end of the day.”
What was your least favorite part of camp?
“Anything you do consistently is going to get old along the way, but just staying mentally tough. In two-a-days and stuff you get bumps and bruises and that’s the down part of it, but other than that it’s football at the end of the day and you’ve got to love it because that’s what you do and that’s what you came to school for.”
What were the main differences in the camps run by Coach Rodriguez versus Coach Hoke?
“It was different overall because Coach Rod is spread and Coach Hoke is traditional style, I-formation, so that was pretty much different in strength and conditioning based on the scheme of the team and type of different goals. That was the main difference – the spread offense and the conditioning. The spread offense is more running than anything – that’s why we put up so many points – but it was overall just different.”
Do you have any crazy stories from camp? Any fights or anything like that?
“There were a couple brawls but stuff like that we just keep it in the family. But with the freshmen, some of the older guys we always put the freshmen in bins and tape them up and put them in the shower. Other than that, we had a lot of fun.”
2012: What Happened?
Going into the 2012 season, high expectations swirled around the Michigan rushing attack. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was fresh off of a breakout year in 2011 and seemed poised for an enormous season next to Denard Robinson and behind a veteran offensive line. The results couldn’t have been more disappointing. Toussaint failed to rush for 100 yards in each of the 10 games he played in and ended the season with less than half of his 2011 yards. Against Iowa on November 17, the frustrating season came to an end when he took an early exit due to a serious ankle injury.
Once again, Michigan was saved by Robinson, who willingly jumped into the backfield and became the most effective running back of the season. Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith were unable to make up for the loss of Toussaint’s meager production, rushing for a combined 20 yards in the final two games of the season.
Michigan rarely flirted with other options during the season, giving a few carries to Justice Hayes and all of two to speedster Dennis Norfleet. When the season came to an end, fans were left to remember a disaster as far as the non-Denard running game was concerned.
As Brady Hoke transitions the offense back to a more traditional Michigan style, the performance of the running backs are going to be absolutely crucial. The battle for starting snaps in 2013 appears to be wide open.
Returning Players: Bouncing Back
Toussaint figures to start the 2013 campaign with expectations somewhere between where they were heading into the last two seasons. In 2011, Michigan had a trio of backs fighting for starts in Smith, Toussaint and Michael Shaw. Toussaint was able to grab the starting job and run with it to the tune of 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. Fans will likely have a difficult time predicting what to expect from Toussaint in the upcoming season, given the wide range of results the past two seasons.
Rawls may have cemented his role as the goal-line back in the final four weeks of last season, failing to rush for three yards per carry in each contest. At times, it seemed like the Flint product was going to take advantage of Toussaint’s struggles and win the starting job. In the end, inconsistency killed Rawls and his lack of big-play potential resulted in more carries for Robinson in big moments.
Hayes and Norfleet have yet to get real shots at big carries. Ten of Hayes’s 18 carries came in the 45-0 blowout of Illinois, and Norfleet was used mostly as a returner on special teams. Both backs are known for their quickness in space, so as the offense moves in a more physical direction, expect both players to remain primarily on special teams and in slot receiving roles.
The final two returning running backs on the roster took redshirts last year. Bobby Henderson joined the team out of New York and will have a hard time seeing the field in 2013. Drake Johnson created a little more buzz when he signed, mostly because he came from right across the street at Pioneer High School. Johnson will likely be used sparingly as well this year, considering the number of running back options Hoke has at his disposal.
Prediction: Despite the rough 2012, Toussaint wins the starting job to start the season. Rawls continues to see regular time in short-yardage situations due to his ability to push the pile. He may also take some snaps at fullback when Borges decides to use one. Hayes and Norfleet will see most of their time as returners and in formations as slot receivers, while Johnson and Henderson rarely see the field.
|Projected Stats – Toussaint|
|Projected Stats – Rawls|
Recruits: Filling The Hole
A good recruiting class is one that has highly-ranked players, but a great recruiting class also fills a team’s specific needs. After such a disappointing year for Michigan running backs, the 2013 class is a great class. Michigan’s inability to run the ball without Denard Robinson forced Brady Hoke to focus on running backs for the upcoming season, and the results were better than anyone expected. In fact, they even brought Hoke to tears.
Derrick Green revealed that when he committed to Michigan the Head Coach was extremely emotional, which is all fans need to know when learning about the number one running back recruit, according to both Scout and Rivals. Green is a powerful running back that can carry defenders and will break out of any arm tackle. Green is the perfect fit for the Michigan offense of the future, as he prefers to run between the tackles. Don’t expect Green to be fancy, but that doesn’t mean he can’t break a big run. If defenders don’t wrap him up, the freshman will make them pay by shrugging them off and lumbering downfield.
Michigan also signed DeVeon Smith, another highly-rated recruit out of high school. Like Green, Smith will break tackles and punish defenders inside. The duo of Smith and Green should have defenses dreading Saturdays against the Wolverines in the coming years, but with the number of guys fighting for snaps this season, Smith may find himself with a redshirt. Hoke will take into account the many similarities between the two freshman, and it makes sense that he would save one of them a year of eligibility while the backfield is so crowded.
Wyatt Shallman is an interesting recruit, as he signals the unofficial return of the fullback to the Michigan offense after the Rich Rod era eliminated it completely. Shallman was one of the top fullback recruits in the nation this year, and figures to play exclusively at that position at Michigan, since Hoke brought in two talented running back recruits as well. Shallman is a big back at 6’3″, 245 pounds, but can still contribute on offense in many ways. While the fullback will be used mainly for blocking, he has some rushing ability and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Prediction: Green battles Toussaint for the starting job and has a realistic shot to win it, but in the end he enters the season as the backup. If Toussaint fails to play better than he did in 2012, look for Green to snatch the starting job and hold his own as a true freshman in the Big Ten.
|Projected Stats – Green|
Michigan’s running game is going to look very different in 2013. The most exciting runner in Michigan history has graduated and the void has been filled by several ground-and-pound guys. Robinson improvised with his speed and broke enormous runs during his career at Michigan, but the recruiting class Brady Hoke brought in will spend the majority of its time rushing between the tackles and using a strong offensive line to push ahead for more consistent, conservative gains.
Ideally, Toussaint will return to the running back we saw in 2011. Realistically, we can hope for him to be somewhere in the middle of that and his shaky 2012 campaign, which would give the Maize and Blue steady contributions from the running back position. However, if he fails to produce this year, Michigan is better prepared. Green is ready to handle rushes on the big stage right now, and will be there to push Toussaint every step of the way. Either way, Michigan appears to be in better shape at running back heading into the 2013 season.
First it was former Michigan receiver Martavious Odoms’ #EATING campaign in which he crowd-funded nearly $40,000 from 999 backers in order to plant a community garden in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Then, we brought you the story of of former Wolverine running back Vincent Smith’s campaign to fund a painting day of fun for the kids of Pahokee. He successfully raised over $2,700 from 93 backers.
Now, a third former Michigan football player from the small Florida town is running a Kickstarter campaign of his own. Former linebacker Brandin Hawthorne is asking for $75,000 to make a documentary about Michigan football and the “great tradition of tailgating in Ann Arbor.”
From his Kickstarter page, Hawthorne writes:
“Being a student athlete at a major university we never get to enjoy the festivities that all our fans celebrate, from things like welcome week and tailgating on Saturdays, to all of our different homecoming events and just hanging with the fans and enjoying the moment.
“We have been busy with our community art and garden projects down in Florida and we wanted to take the fall to also connect with our Michigan community. Football is what brings us together, so we decided to make a video that we can share with everyone. We have heard about what goes on during the weekends and how much fun it is and now its time to explore what makes you all the best fans in the world.”
While Odoms’ and Smith’s projects were focused on the well-being of the residents of Pahokee, Hawthorne’s focuses on you, the fans of Michigan football.
It includes Hawthorne and Smith visiting tailgating spots around the stadium checking out your recipes and barbecuing skills, exploring your personal Michigan football gameday traditions, holding a costume contest looking for the biggest fan, and seeking out and feature “the best” tailgate in Ann Arbor.
As with all Kickstarter campaigns, prizes are awarded for donating certain amounts. This one is a bit more personal and interactive than most, with a $45 donation earning a trampoline dodgeball with Hawthorne and Smith, a $50 donation getting a kayak/canoe trip with the two, a $65 donation earning a day of paintball with them, and higher donations earning personalized voicemails or the chance to partner with Hawthorne or Smith on the kayak/canoe trip. Smaller donations receive t-shirts, water bottles, autographed post cards, or copies of the DVD.
With only 25 days remaining in the campaign, they need a lot of help getting it funded, so take a few minutes to help out some former Wolverines.
Vincent Smith’s goal of providing a painting fun day for the kids of Pahokee came closer to fruition on Tuesday when his Kickstarter campaign received full funding. Tonight, on the eve of Michigan’s pro day, he issued the following statement to thank those who donated.
|“I would like to thank you all for your support for my pilot Painting Day for the kids. I’m trying to give back in any way I can for my community and do whatever it takes to give the kids a chance to be successful. I’ll try my best for them and continue to be an inspiration in all young kids lives, not just in my community. Thanks once again for backing my Pilot Painting day and helping to make it happen. I am looking forward to sharing our progress with everyone.”
- Vincent Smith
This is truly a kid worth rooting for. Stay tuned for more updates on his project.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of how Vincent Smith was trying to use his love for painting to give back to the youth in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Yesterday, thanks to the generosity of 88 backers (and counting), his Kickstarter campaign became fully funded, which means he will be able to hold his painting fun day for the middle and elementary school kids of Pahokee.
The day of fun will be held sometime in late March or April – he’s still working to nail down the exact date – and will provide the kids with much-needed painting supplies, painting lessons from Vincent himself, and an autograph session with the former Michigan running back.
Tomorrow, Smith will participate in Michigan’s annual pro day along with the rest of the departing Wolverines who hope to either improve their stock in the upcoming NFL Draft or earn an undrafted free agent spot on a team. Last season, 25 NFL teams sent scouts to the event. Smith hopes to catch on anywhere, but thinks he would fit in nicely with a team like Seattle or Philadelphia (with new head coach Chip Kelly) that doesn’t run a traditional power-type offense. He’s also hoping to run a 4.40 40-yard dash.
Regardless of where he ends up, his roots will remain in Pahokee and his painting fun day will help give hope to the next generation of kids who need a good role model. It’s safe to say that with a good head on his shoulders and a willingness to give back, Vincent will be able to fill that role.
Once the Kickstarter campaign officially ends on Saturday afternoon, we will begin the process of choosing our winners for the autographed Michigan mini helmet and $25 M Den gift card. The winners will be announced on the site and contacted via email.
Maize and Go Blue will also recap the painting fun day after it happens, so stay tuned.
Fair or not, his Michigan legacy is likely to be remembered most by the hit he received from Jadeveon Clowney in the Capital One Bowl (edit: Outback Bowl). But that doesn’t define Vincent Smith. Nor do the 1,845 total yards or 17 touchdowns he accounted for over the last four years. Nor does the distinction he holds as the only player in modern Michigan history to score a touchdown rushing, receiving, and passing in the same game.
No, Vincent Smith is much more than that. His backstory has been told several times, from his humble beginnings in Pahokee, Fla., to being known as the toughest player on the team despite his diminutive stature, to his relatively recent passion for painting. Yesterday, he appeared in a Sports Illustrated feature along with Clowney about where they each came from and how it all led up to the hit seen ’round the world.
But this isn’t a story about his past. It’s about how that past has shaped the man he is now and what he wants to do to help mold the next generation of Pahokee youth.
“When I was a kid, lawyers and athletes (who came from Pahokee) came back and spoke to us about succeeding, and that made an impact on me,” Smith said. “So I’ve always wanted to be able to give back like that.”
Earlier this month, Smith set the wheels in motion for his first give-back project, C2C – Vincent Smith Teaches Painting. The idea is to share his love for painting with the middle school and elementary kids of Pahokee by dedicating one day in late March or early April as a painting fun day. Smith will provide the painting materials and his time to provide a day of fun for kids from the impoverished town. He’ll teach them the basics of painting, sign autographs, and leave a lasting impression on the next generation of Pahokee youth.
The project, which is being funded through the crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter, ends on March 16 – the same day the the Wolverines begin spring practice without Smith – and is currently about $800 short of its goal. If the project does not meet its goal by March 16, it will go unfulfilled and Vincent won’t get a chance to make a lasting impression on a generation of youth in need of an inspirational and tangible role model.
Time certainly isn’t easy to come by for Smith as he’s busy preparing for April’s NFL Draft. He trains five days a week in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton with fellow Pahokeean and Wolverine Brandin Hawthorne and others such as the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mattheu. He will participate in Michigan’s Pro Day on March 14th – just two days before his campaign expires – where he hopes to make enough of an impression on NFL scouts to warrant a draft pick or at least a free agent deal. And that’s what makes this project so selfless.
Despite being hard at work chasing his dreams, Smith wants to make sure he gives hope to the youth of Pahokee who could be next in the long line of football stars to come from the Muck. But in the same way he discovered art as a student at Michigan, Smith wants to show that success can be found – and safe and constructive fun can be had – in ways other than football.
“I could always run a football camp or something like that, but I want to switch it up,” Smith said. “I like to give back to the community and this is a way to show kids there are outlets other than football.”
Smith will forever be a part of the Michigan football fraternity, and as a part of the 2009 class that featured Taylor Lewan and Denard Robinson, he helped guide the program through some rough times and set the foundation for the future. Now, he’s trying to do the same for the youth of Pahokee.
As a Michigan fan base that has cheered him on the last four years, let’s send him off with a going away present by opening our wallets to help him help others. Whether it’s $1 or $100, please consider becoming a “backer” of this project. There are rewards for you as well, such as H.O.P.E. wristbands, limited edition prints of his paintings, and more based on your level of donation.
If the project reaches its goal, everyone that becomes a backer between now and the end of the campaign will be entered into a random drawing for a $25 gift card to the M Den and a Michigan mini helmet signed by Vincent Smith, courtesy of Maize and Go Blue*.
In a sports culture full of self-absorbed players that take out $300,000 loans for their own birthday party and struggle to cope with fame, wealth, and life after football, Vincent Smith is a breath of fresh air. He’s truly invested in perpetuating the cycle of giving back to the community that gave back to him when he was a kid. It’s a story about hope and future, and there don’t seem to be enough of those these days.
*One winner will be randomly selected after March 16. Campaign must reach its goal. Winner will be contacted via email. Donation amount has no effect on chance of winning. If you have any questions, contact Vincent via the Kickstarter page or email email@example.com.
They arrived in Ann Arbor four or five years ago, to a program in a state of flux that no incoming class had seen in nearly 40 years. Unlike last year’s graduating class, none came to Michigan under the old regime of Lloyd Carr prior to his retirement. The 18 [Edit: 23] players that will play their last game in Michigan Stadium on Saturday came to Michigan full of promise with a new coach. While the first couple years of their careers didn’t go as planned, they laid the groundwork for the resurgence of Michigan football that we have seen last season and this. While they still have two games left and a bowl game, let’s take a look back at the careers of each of Michigan’s graduating seniors.
No player has meant more to Michigan over the last four years than Denard Robinson. His career began with an electric 37-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan in 2009 and has produced enough highlight-reel plays and legendary performances to assure that he will go down as one of the greats to ever don the maize and blue.
Denard currently ranks fifth in career rushing yards, third in rushing touchdowns, fourth in 100-yard rushing games, sixth in pass completions, fourth in passing yards, fourth in passing touchdowns, and first in total yards in the Michigan record books. He also ranks first all-time in Big Ten rushing yards by a quarterback, third in NCAA career quarterback rushing yards, and seventh in Big Ten career total yards. If he’s able to play the final two games and bowl game, he will surely move up even higher in most of those categories.
He arrived in Michigan a soft-spoken kid and became the face of Michigan football through the roughest patch in the past 40 years. Even when Michigan was barely competitive, Denard gave us a reason not only to watch but to be excited. This August, he delivered the keynote speech at the Big Ten Media Day and serves as team captain. This is all the more remarkable considering that Rich Rodriguez was virtually the only major coach that wanted him as a quarterback.
Denard will remain a Michigan legend long after he plays his final game, whether or not his number gets official legends status.
While Denard has been the face of the team and put up all the offensive stats over the past four years, Jordan Kovacs has been the face of the defense. And his story is even more improbable. A hardly recruited defensive back out of Clay High School in Ohio, Kovacs chose to walk on at Michigan instead of go to the only other school that showed any interest in him – Toledo.
In his first season, he was named to the CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America second team and was named Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. As a redshirt sophomore he finished second in the Big Ten with 116 tackles and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media. He also earned a scholarship. Last season, he was again named All-Big Ten honorable mention, and currently has 54 tackles through 10 games in his senior campaign. He also became a captain this season. From walk on to captain, he’s everything Rudy wasn’t.
Last weekend, Kovacs was awarded the Wistert brothers’ No. 11 legends jersey to wear for the remainder of his career. He has started 43 career games and has brought hard-nosed, high-energy defense every game. Every walk on from now on will aim to be the next Jordan Kovacs and he will be missed next season.
A skinny kid from Dayton, Ohio, Roy Roundtree committed to Rich Rodriguez on his first National Signing Day. After redshirting his freshman year, Roundtree led Michigan with 32 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns in 2009 while starting four games. He was named a CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America honorable mention and Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. In 2010, he broke out with 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns. He ranked second in the Big Ten in yards and was named to the All-Big Ten second team by the media.
Last season, his production fell off considerably in Brady Hoke’s first season, but he provided one of the highlights of the season with the game-winning touchdown catch in Michigan’s improbable comeback against Notre Dame. This season, Roundtree has 20 receptions for 378 yards and one touchdown through 10 games, but no catch has been more important than the 53-yarder he hauled in in the final seconds last week against Northwestern to set up the game-tying field goal.
Although he won’t go down as one of the best receivers in Michigan history, he has shown a knack for big plays and won’t soon be forgotten. For the past two seasons, he has worn Desmond Howard’s No. 21 legends jersey, which was the first one given such status.
Craig Roh was a big pickup for Rich Rodriguez when he committed on Sept. 18, 2008. The seventh-ranked defensive end in the nation out of Scottsdale, Ariz. held offers from USC, Stanford, and Nebraska to name a few, but chose to make the journey east.
As a freshman in 2009, he recorded 37 tackles, 7.5 for loss, two sacks, and an interception, earning CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America honorable mention honors, as well as Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. He upped his tackle numbers to 43 in 2010 and then was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media last season. He ranked second on the team with four sacks a year ago.
This season, he’s on pace for his best season yet with 37 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and four sacks through 10 games thus far. He has consistently represented Michigan well off the field and was named 2011 Academic All-Big Ten. He has started 48 consecutive games, 20 at linebacker, 26 at defensive end, and two at defensive tackle, showing his versatility and willingness to do what is needed to help the defense improve.
#73 – William Campbell
Will Campbell was one of the most highly touted in recent memory, a consensus five-star defensive tackle. He arrive din Ann Arbor weighing 356 pounds and never lived up to the hype through his first three seasons. At one point in 2010, he moved to offensive line, but that was short lived when Hoke took over. As a senior, he has finally earned a starting spot and done well with 32 tackles and a sack so far.
#2 – Vincent Smith
The diminutive back from Pahokee, Fla. was recruited for Rodriguez’s system and had a promising freshman season with 48 carries for 276 yards and a touchdown, as well as 10 receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He earned the starting job in 2010, carrying the ball 136 times for 601 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 15 receptions for 130 yards and two more TDs. When Hoke arrived, Smith lost the job as the starter, but became the third down back. Against Minnesota last season, he became the first player in program history to record a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, and passing touchdown in the same game. This season, he has just 24 carries for 67 yards and two touchdowns, but has always shown an ability to pick up yards when needed.
#57 – Elliott Mealer
Mealer’s road to Michigan was filled with heartache when a car accident killed his father and girlfriend and left his brother Brock permanently paralyzed. But he has overcome the tragedy with a solid career as a backup offensive lineman. This season, he earned the starting nod at center, replacing David Molk and may be best known for his mountain man beard.
#25 – Kenny Demens
Demens was a highly sought after linebacker recruit in the midwest in 2008 but chose to come to Michigan at a time when linebacker play was less than stellar. He grabbed a starting spot midway through the 2010 season and never looked back, helping to solidify a position that had been a weak point for a couple of years. He was the team’s third leading tackler as a sophomore with 82 tackles. Last season, he led the team with 94, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention honors from the coaches and media. This season, he currently ranks second on the team with 67 tackles and five for loss.
#52 – Ricky Barnum
Barnum spent his first couple of seasons as a reserve offensive lineman before coming onto the scene a year ago. He started three games at left guard and finally earned a true starting spot this season, starting all 10 games thus far.
#65 – Patrick Omameh
Omameh has started 39 consecutive games at right guard over the last three seasons while being named Academic All-Big Ten twice. He was also one of 11 players nationally to be named to the AllState AFCA Good Works Team for his regular visits to Mott Children’s Hospital.
#8 – J.T. Floyd
Floyd wasn’t highly ranked coming out of high school, but has been a fixture in the Michigan secondary for the past three seasons, starting 32 games at cornerback and playing in 40. In 2010, he finished sixth in the conference in tackles per game, and last season he was named All-Big Ten honorable mention. This year, he has 29 tackles so far for the nation’s top-rated pass defense. He has recorded three career interceptions and two career forced fumbles.
#89/87 – Brandon Moore
Moore hails from the same high school as Roundtree and former Wolverine Michael Shaw and came to Michigan as the nation’s eight-best tight end. He has been mostly a special teams player throughout his career, but has recorded two receptions for 28 yards. On Sept. 15, he was given Ron Kramer’s No. 87 legends jersey to wear for the remainder of the season.
#7 – Brandin Hawthorne
Hawthorne came to Michigan from Pahokee, Fla. as a three-star player and has spent the majority of his career on special teams. Last season, he started five games, recording 43 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. So far this season, he has 14 tackles, seven of which came against UMass.
Other seniors who will be playing their last games in Michigan Stadium are #14 Jack Kennedy, #20 Steve Wilson, #23 Floyd Simmons, #31 Paul Gyarmati, and #81 Mike Kwiatkowski. [Edit: Also, Al Backey, Nathan Brink, Seth Broekhuizen, Curt Garman, and Charlie Zeller].
Make sure to get into the stadium early on Saturday to salute each of these Michigan men for their hard work an dedication of the last four or five years. Give them a standing ovation to thank them for coming in during tumultuous times, sticking it out, and helping turn the program around.