Scary dude, that Troy Smith


Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, top, talks with his back-up Justin Zwick during team practice.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 12:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 12:36 p.m.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. I am standing two feet from Troy Smith and I am scared.

He isn't staring me down, or even raising his voice. Ohio State's Heisman Trophy quarterback is calmly sitting at a table and answering questions from reporters.

And that is scary.

To look into his eyes is to see fire. Smith is a confident leader. He talks about Monday's BCS title game, winning the Heisman Trophy and growing up on the means streets of Cleveland with a humble manner.

Listening to him, it is evident he is the type of person you would love to play for.

Successful leaders have a certain charisma that is magnetic, and Smith possesses this.

He looks and talks like a winner, and his record as a quarterback appears to back up this assumption.

The entire Ohio State team has turned out to be a very intelligent, likeable group. Flanker Anthony Gonzalez is a fine illustration. Gonzalez could be the most intelligent football player I've ever talked to.

He answers reporters questions as if he were a philosopher. He absorbs the question and ponders his answer before speaking.

The most interesting point he made Wednesday came when a reporter asked him how Ohio State would handle the 51-day layoff.

Gonzalez said it wouldn't matter, because Florida has not played in more than a month, as well. Had Florida played last week, Gonzalez theorized, then it might be a factor.

As for the Gators, I can only imagine how surreal the Arizona desert must be to the players who have never been outside the Southeast. The landscape here resembles Mars, with rocky, red mountains serving as a backdrop to the vast openness of the desert.

Here at the media hotel in Scottsdale, there is a less appealing sight: Excessive amounts of complimentary Tostitos. It is as if Tostitos, the sponsor for the Fiesta Bowl and Monday's title game, is trying to convince us their corn chips provide vital sustenance.

Tostitos are available for breakfast and lunch. At times, the people from Tostitos will throw in a wrinkle and offer Tostitos Scoops.

In the media hospitality lounge, there are baskets of Tostitos laid out on tables, with an amazing cache of unopened bags waiting in the shadows. When one basket of chips goes empty, an employee wearing a Tostitos BCS title game shirt runs over and refills the basket with more Tostitos.

You know how in the bus in the movie Speed will blow up if it drops below 55 miles per hour? Well, here it seems like the Camelback Resort will implode should a basket of Tostitos run empty.

Still, it is impossible to keep your hands off them. If there is one lesson I will take from this, it is that mixing delicious Tostitos salsa with Tostitos queso is an electric combination.

But I prefer another form of junk food here: In-N-Out Burger. The West Coast fast food chain is a known favorite for Ohio State players. It is also mine. I have eaten lunch there each of the past two days.

This is where my fear of Troy Smith and my love for In-N-Out Burger intersect.

On Wednesday, a reporter asked Smith to describe an In-N-Out Burger to people back East. When he answered, Smith actually cracked a smile and lightened up. I guess he's not so scary after all.

In case you're wondering, Smith is also pretty good at describing his culinary pleasures.

"What you need to understand first and foremost, is that it is a fresh burger," Smith said. "The lettuce and tomatoes are extremely fresh. And they toast the buns. That is key. That is huge. They toast the buns. They use a special kind of sauce, too. It is an extremely incredible sandwich after a long night."

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