[Ed. You already know that quarterback Steve Smith anchors the offense on the Schembechler All-Bovember team, but I bet you didn’t know this tale!]
By Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis
A few years ago (my gosh, as I write this I realize it was almost 20 years ago!) I met former Michigan quarterback Steve Smith at a card signing. Smitty was one of my favorite Michigan players growing up because he could do it all from the QB position. He could run – he had 4.5 speed in the 40 – and he could throw. He was THE #16 before Shoelace wore #16.
After his playing days as a Wolverine, Smith opted for the Canadian Football League because most NFL teams viewed Smith as too short to play QB at the next level. Not wanting to switch positions, Smith signed with the Montreal Concordes (formally the Alouettes) of the CFL in 1984. But Nebraska’s Turner Gill also signed with Montreal and Smith ending up being the #2 QB in Montreal behind Gill.
Now mind you, just because I grew up in Canada, it doesn’t mean I was a diehard CFL fan, quite the opposite. I only followed former Michigan players if they came to play football in the Great White North, eh?
As I chatted with Smith about his playing days in Montreal, I mentioned to him that my good friend John Kryk actually had recorded some CFL action of Smitty against the Edmonton Eskimos on VHS videotape. Smith laughed at the recollection of that game, in particular the interception he threw late in that contest. With Gill being the main guy at the pivot position, Smith played sparingly in mop-up duty in Montreal.
In this particular game against the Eskies, it looked like Smith would not get much playing time, so Smitty ended up eating a HUGE pre-game meal. As he told me, it looked like another game where he was not expected play. As fate would have it Smith’s number was called late in the contest and the former Wolverine showed all of Canada what he had – full stomach and all.
After handing off to the running back on 1st down, Smith’s next play was a quarterback draw where his instincts and adrenaline just kicked in. Smith took off and flashed his 4.5 speed for a 46-yard run down the sideline. The crowd, and even the announcers were amazed at how fast he was.
The next time Smith went back to pass he threw a low ball that looked incomplete, but the Edmonton defender scooped up the ball and ran for what appeared to be a pick-six. But Smitty with his blazing speed had other ideas.
He ran a good 75 yards full tilt, caught up with the Edmonton defender, and dragged him to the ground just before the end zone. It was an impressive run by a QB playing in mop up duty. As I recalled that story to Smith, he told me that what the cameras didn’t show after he made that tackle.
Because he had just motored some 75 yards on a full stomach, Smith got up from that tackle and— promptly hurled his lunch right there on the sideline!!
Smith asked me if I could make a copy of that videotape some twenty years ago to show his wife and kids that he really did play pro ball. I did and the next time I caught up with #16 he was gracious enough to sign this picture for me:
For those of you who didn’t see Smitty play in the CFL, here is the link to his memorable game action against Edmonton: