By DAVID JONES
GAME CONDUCTOR: TU star quarterback Paul Smith leads the team’s band in the school’s fight song after every win at Chapman Stadium.
HARRY LENTZ for GTR Newspapers
Paul Smith has a new avocation; after leading the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane football team to gridiron glory, he leads his teammates over to the TU band, where he conducts a rousing version of the school’s fight song.
No one will confuse Smith with Eugene Ormandy or Arturo Toscanini, but the band looks forward to him coming over and grabbing a baton.
No one knows just where Smith came up with his musical ambition. He is, after all, a communications major, and while music has been called a universal form of communication, this probably isn’t what his professors are talking about.
His main avocation, of course, is football, and here he has succeeded admirably. He now ranks second, behind T.J. Rubley, in career touchdowns, total yards and yards passing.
The touchdown mark (73 to 54) may be out of reach but the passing yardage (8,083 vs. 9080) and total yardage (8,681 vs. 9,324) are decidedly within reach.
Smith is, by widespread agreement, a stellar quarterback, but he is a great deal more. He was recently selected to be TU’s semifinalist for the 2007 Draddy Trophy which recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.
In addition to leading the Golden Hurricane to gridiron glory, Smith possesses a 3.8 grade average in communications and has been involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and various community activities during his five-year tenure at TU.
There are 153 semi-finalists for the award. In 2006 Brandon Diles was a semi-finalist and the year before Garrett Mills became one of the 12 finalists and as such received a scholarship for post-graduate work. If Smith wins he will be given a trophy and a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.
Smith has known a lot of success during his football career. In high school he lettered his freshman and sophomore seasons at Edmond Deer Creek High School and then was a two-year letterwinner and starter at Owasso High School. He became the state of Oklahoma’s all-time passing leader as a senior with 9,574 career yards completing 583 of 1,009 passes. To that he added 975 yards rushing. He even punted for a 38-yard average his senior season.
During his high school years he accounted for 83 passing touchdowns and 23 touchdowns rushing.
Few Golden Hurricane fans will forget the moment Smith seized during his first year at Tulsa. He was sitting on the bench when starting quarterback James Kilian went down with an injury at San Jose State. Desperately needing a win to advance its conference and bowl hopes TU called upon the freshman and Smith responded beautifully, leading the team to a 34-32 nail-biter victory.
Smith took the next year off for a red-shirt season then came roaring back in 2005, starting all 13 games and leading the team to a 9-4 record winding up with a 31-24 triumph over Fresno State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. His play in that game, in which he completed 18 of 27 passes and had a touchdown each rushing and passing while throwing for 234 yards, won him the game’s Most Valuable Player award.
During that stellar sophomore season Smith completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,847 yards and 20 touchdowns against only six interceptions.
His 2006 season exceeded his 2005 exploits in several areas. He increased his passing success ratio to 66 percent, averaging 209.8 yeards a game with 15 TDs. The personal kudos kept coming; he received the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American second team merit, was named C-USA’s scholar-Athlete of the Year for football, had his first career 300-plus passing game with 308 yards against Rice, threw for three touchdowns against Navy and also against Stephen F. Austin.
The current season is showing no signs of slackening. Through the Marshall game, which was the halfway point of the season, Smith had completed 134 of 217 passes for 2,212 yards. He has thrown for 18 touchdowns against a mere eight interceptions. His completion percentage is slightly lower than last year’s at 61.8 percent, but he is throwing some bombs that are gobbling ground at a prodigious rate. Through the first six games of the current season he is averaging 368.7 yards a game.
He has rushed 46 times for 51 yards (remember, a sack is counted as yards lost rushing) but in those 51 yards he has accounted for six touchdowns.
He ranks high in several important national categories. At the halfway point he was third in points responsible for, fourth in total offense, fourth in passing yards per game and fifth in total passing yards.
To hail his accomplishments, he even has his own brass band.