Chiefs rookie Smith tries to make most of opportunity


The Kansas City Star

Running back Kolby Smith, who played at Louisville, looked for a hole during Tuesday’s morning practice in River Falls.

R IVER FALLS, Wis. | He rushed for more than 2,000 yards in high school and nearly led his college team to the national championship.
Still, for Gloria Smith, the most memorable moment of her son’s football career occurred not in a stadium, but on a porch.
Kolby Smith was 9 when he tried to sneak onto a 10-year-old team with some of his neighborhood friends. The age-fudging worked for a day or so, but it wasn’t long before Smith’s coach made him give back the helmet and pads.
“He came home and knocked on the door,” Gloria said. “I looked out the window, and he was standing on the porch, just cryin’ and cryin’. I nearly started cryin’ along with him, it tore me up so bad. He said, ‘Mama, they said I can’t play.’ ”
Kolby Smith has never cared for that word. It brought him to tears that day 13 years ago, when he was told he was too young to join the youth football squad. He despised it as a freshman at Louisville, when his coaches said they couldn’t use him as a tailback and switched his position.
And it irks him now, when Mom calls him about the comments on Internet message boards that say that he can’t possibly survive roster cuts on a Chiefs squad that features three Pro Bowl running backs.
“The Chiefs drafted me for a reason,” Smith said. “I’m here to do a job. I’m here to play football.”
More and more these days, it appears Smith will get that chance.
Smith has made the most of a mammoth opportunity during his first NFL training camp. With Larry Johnson holding out for a new contract and Priest Holmes still weeks away from contact drills, Smith and Michael Bennett are receiving extensive work with the first- and second-string units.
Smith has done anything but disappoint. Not a day goes by when coach Herm Edwards doesn’t dote on Smith, the Chiefs’ fifth-round selection in this year’s draft. And rarely is there a practice when Smith fails to produce at least one head-turning burst or tackle-shedding thwack.
“He’s got some power, but he’s also got some niftiness and some really good feet,” Edwards said. “He’s what I call a no-nonsense runner. Once he sees an opening, he’s going to hit it.”
Edwards pauses.
“This guy,” he says, “is going to be a really good football player.”
Good enough to supplant an All-Pro such as Johnson? Of course not. Quietly, though, Chiefs personnel are already visualizing scenarios that involve Smith seeing significant action as a reserve tailback while contributing on special teams.
“There’s not a lot this guy can’t do,” said Chuck Cook, the Chiefs’ director of college scouting.
“He obviously knows how to run the ball. But he’ll also catch everything you throw at him. He can pass (protect) pretty well, he’s smart … I’m telling you, he’s got Priest Holmes-like intangibles. Nothing that’s going on out here is too big for him.”
A year ago, it would’ve been tough to envision Smith in this situation.
A Tallahassee, Fla., native, Smith was hoping for a standout career as a college running back when he signed with Louisville back in 2002. Within months, though, the 5-foot-11, 219-pound Smith had been moved to fullback.
Smith had 55 carries in his first two seasons combined before gaining 523 yards on 107 carries as a junior. Deep down, Smith longed to move back to his natural position — but not once, teammates said, did he complain.