Smith is thankful for Gators... and vice versa

Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
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Florida cornerback Ryan Smith loses the football after making an interception from Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson during the fourth quarter Saturday. The ball was recovered by Florida safety Reggie Nelson.>

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Ryan Smith sat down before a pack of reporters Saturday night when suddenly, the cell phone is his backpack started ringing.
"I guess I should have left that in the locker room," he said.
Smith was certainly a popular man following the Gators' 28-13 win over Alabama on Saturday afternoon in The Swamp. The defensive back who transferred from Utah this past summer intercepted two passes - both off deflections - and nearly had a third late in the game.
"It was just a couple of passes tipped to me," Smith said. "I made the play."
The interceptions were the first for Smith at Florida, more special moments for a player who is simply happy to be at Florida.
"It's awesome," Smith said. "I could easily be playing at a I-AA school. I tell (Coach Urban Meyer) everyday, 'Thank you.' "
Meyer was saying the same thing to Smith on Saturday night.
Smith's first interception came during Alabama's second possession of the game. Quarterback John Parker Wilson fired a pass to Tim Castille on third-and-8 from Florida's 36. The pass deflected off Castille's hands and into Smith's.
Smith appeared to have a clear path down the sideline into the end zone, but was instead tackled by Wilson after a 29-yard return.
"I guess I just outran my blockers," Smith said.
Smith's second interception needed a video replay to become official. With Florida clinging to a 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter, Smith intercepted Wilson at Alabama's 35, but was immediately stripped of the ball.
Safety Reggie Nelson recovered, but the play was reviewed to see if Smith had possession of the ball before fumbling. Turned out, he did.
"I was pretty sure I intercepted it," Smith said. "When they announced it, I was relieved."
Smith nearly had a third interception and a touchdown with 2:53 left in the game. Smith jumped a curl route by Will Oakley deep in Alabama territory, got both hands on the ball, but couldn't hold onto it.
"I've been getting grief about that one ever since it happened," Smith said.
Smith, a junior, has started all five games for the Gators this season after taking advantage of the new NCAA rule which allows players who have graduated to transfer without sitting out a season.
Smith said Saturday no other Division I school was interested in him besides Florida. Smith played for Meyer at Utah.
"Nobody knew me," Smith said. Now, people do. "Ryan Smith is a good player," Meyer said. "He's playing like he did two years ago for us. He loves it. He loves playing for the Gators."
Contact Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or

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