Patience is an attribute shared by many great running backs, but Iowa recruit Markel Smith has taken it to a new level.
The St. Louis native waited five years, playing as an offensive lineman in youth football before getting his first chance at running back. Smith was in seventh grade when his coaches finally gave in to his longstanding wish to carry the football.
“They gave me a shot in a game when we were beating a team by like 30 or 40 (points),” Smith said Sunday in a telephone interview. “They put me in the backfield and I broke my first run for like 60 yards, and I’ve been playing (running back) ever since.”
That game was the start of a life-altering journey that will continue Wednesday when Smith signs a letter of intent to play football for the University of Iowa. The former offensive lineman, who at the age of 6 was cut from his first youth football team, ranks as the second all-time leading high school rusher from the St. Louis area with 7,345 yards.
Smith also set the state rushing record for a single game as a senior when he shredded Washington High School for 541 rushing yards and seven touchdowns during a 48-41 victory.
“I tip my hat off to my team and my (offensive) linemen, because without them I wouldn’t have had those yards,” Smith said. “The coaching staff was amazing. They put their hearts into it and I just reaped the benefits really.”
Smith looks the part of an Iowa running back, his 5-foot-10 frame wrapped in 210 pounds of muscle.
His high school coach said Smith should fit perfectly in Iowa’s power running game.
“I think he’s just made for the Big Ten,” said Paul Day, coach at St. John Vianney High School in St. Louis. “He’s a big, physical guy that will carry the ball a lot.”
Running backs carry a heavy rushing load in Iowa’s pro-style offense. Iowa, much to Smith’s liking, is one of few teams that still use a fullback on a regular basis. It’s been that way throughout Kirk Ferentz’s 15-year reign as head coach.
“They’re known for sending linemen to the NFL, a powerhouse offense and I’ll have a fullback in front of me,” Smith said. My junior year I had over 2,500 rushing yards with a fullback in front of me. I feel like that will be a perfect fit me with my style as a running back, a downhill runner and powerful. But if I can get to the second level, I’ve got some speed, too.”
Smith previously was committed to Missouri, but he ultimately decided that Iowa was a better fit, especially on the field. His decision didn’t sit well with some Missouri fans, who have expressed their feelings to Smith, mostly through social media.
“Everybody has their opinion,” Smith said. “I don’t care what they’re saying. I’m the one going there. I want to feel comfortable on and off the field. And I feel I made the right choice for me. I feel like I made the right choice with my style as a downhill runner.”
Smith said he has no grudge against Missouri or its fans.
“I don’t dislike Missouri,” Smith said. “It’s just that I felt (Iowa) would be a better choice for me.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football