The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Sports

December 9, 2010

An incredible journey

ANDERSON, Ind. — Taj Smith’s road to the end zone Sunday was much longer than the two yards he was credited for after blocking a Dallas Cowboys’ punt at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Smith, whose full first name is Tajiddin, was one of the few heroes in the Indianapolis Colts’ 38-35 overtime loss. Ironically, a week earlier he’d been doing the same thing as the fans who cheered him so lustily when his block gave the Colts brief hope.

“I was home watching games,” he told reporters, “and eating Sunday dinner.”

Home is Newark, N.J., but Smith is the type of player for whom the term journeyman might have been invented.

He was primarily a defensive star at Newark’s Weequahic High School — the alma mater of Richie Roberts, portrayed by Russell Crowe in the 2007 film “American Gangster.”

Smith recorded 91 tackles and five sacks and returned two fumbles for touchdowns during his senior season, but he landed at Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College and became one of the top receivers in the program’s history.

He set a career record with 95 catches during his two years there and left ranked second on the school’s lists in receiving yards (1,670) and touchdowns (16).

It was enough to catch the eye of Syracuse recruiters, and Smith had a solid career with the Orange, catching 56 passes for 1,049 yards and eight touchdowns.

Ever the underdog, he then went undrafted by the NFL in 2008.

The Green Bay Packers signed Smith as a college free agent, but he was let go in August.

The Colts picked him up and took him to training camp in 2008 and 2009. He spent parts of both seasons on Indianapolis’ practice squad but never reached the field in the regular season.

This summer, after another preseason run with Indy, a hamstring injury led to his release Sept. 4. Indianapolis gave him an injury settlement, and league rules barred the Colts from re-signing him before late November.

On Nov. 30, with rookie Brandon James struggling and depth at wide receiver thin, Indianapolis signed Smith to the active roster for the first time.

In preparation for the Dallas game, head coach Jim Caldwell made a prescient statement.

“He’s been a guy that is really, really familiar with what we do from a special teams standpoint,” Caldwell said, “and someone that we’ll count on.”

Smith’s big moment came early in the fourth quarter.

With Dallas leading 27-21, Cowboys punter Mat McBriar prepared to kick from deep in his own territory. Smith came unblocked around the end, got his hand on the ball, watched it bounce toward the end zone and pounced on it for a touchdown and Indianapolis’ only lead.

“Once I got clean off the block,” he said, “I just read his steps and extended my hands to block it.”

Defensive lineman Keyunta Dawson engulfed Smith in the end zone as the crowd roared.

It appeared as though he’d stolen momentum away from the Cowboys, and a comeback victory was within the Colts’ reach.

But quarterback Peyton Manning’s fourth interception set up Dallas’ game-winning overtime field goal instead.

“It’s hard because we didn’t pull out the win,” Smith said. “We fought hard and continued to play well. Unfortunately, we got the L.”

There still is nothing promised to Smith.

He’s aware if and when the Colts’ receiving corps gets healthy he could be reassigned to the practice squad or cut free altogether.

Again.

But he knows this much: If he’s asked to leave Indianapolis again, it won’t be for lack of effort.

“It’s something that I have been working at,” he said. “You can’t predict the future, but I have been doing my job 100 percent.”

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • Marcum claims Late Model win Morristown driver Jeff Marcum has watched victories in the McGunegill Engine Performance Late Models slip away this season, but that changed Saturday at Anderson Speedway.

    July 20, 2014

  • SPT - HB0720 - Mireles art Mireles looks toward future after all-star finale Surrounded by his friends and family near midfield under the lights of Friday night, Elwood’s Sammy Mireles did something he’s never done in his career. The state’s all-time leading rusher freely absorbed a hit.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0720 - Tennis Classic - JC 1 Hiatt repeats, Hammel wins first title at tennis classic There was a repeat winner and a first-time winner in the Men's A Singles and Women's A Singles championship matches on Saturday morning at the 34th annual Community Hospital Anderson Tennis Classic.

    July 19, 2014 4 Photos

  • SPT - HB0718 - Tennis Classic logo Varsity mixed doubles champs crowned at Tennis Classic The scene slightly resembled a war zone and slightly a country club at Anderson University on Thursday afternoon. As Indianapolis Colts personnel started tearing down tennis court bleachers and parked what appeared to be nearly 100 golf carts in preparation for training camp starting on Thursday next week, one of the first titles was handed out in the Community Hospital Anderson Tennis Classic.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Champion drivers ready for series opener Saturday at Hoosier Park Harness drivers were turned into handicappers on Thursday and their effectiveness in that role will be determined Saturday night.

    July 17, 2014

  • SPT - HB0717 - Colts Camp Colts set to host ESPN during training camp ESPN is coming to Anderson University. "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" will set up shop on campus during Indianapolis Colts training camp on July 28. Reporter Bob Holtzman and analyst Jeff Saturday, who started 188 games at center for the Colts from 1999 through 2011, are scheduled to be on hand.

    July 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Ken de la Bastide: Disappointing short track news abounds During the past two weeks, there has been disappointing news coming out of the local short track racing community.

    July 15, 2014

  • NWS - HB0715 - Chuck Pagano Breakfast planned with Pagano

    Local residents will have the opportunity to hear from Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and to bid on a signed Andrew Luck jersey.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0715 - Mireles art Mireles leaning toward joining Ravens The next big play record-setting running back Sammy Mireles makes could be at Anderson University.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0714 - Riverfield art Riverfield gets revenge in state final For some people the third time is a charm, but for Gene Richardson the seventh time was a charm. The Riverfield Senior Girls Softball coach had made six previous appearances in the state tournament before he broke through with a 9-5 victory over Osolo on Sunday night at Lions Park in Zionsville.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

Latest Sports Photos


Click here to browse and buy photos from The Herald Bulletin