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.


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.”

Text Only
Local Sports
  • Wild week will get later start The busiest week on Madison County's high school sports calendar is going to start a day later than expected.

    April 14, 2014

  • Familiar trio leads boys track teams Much like in years past, Anderson, Lapel and Pendleton Heights have assembled the largest number of track athletes of the area’s 11 high schools. And, while the remaining teams may struggle to compete from a team standpoint, they will send capable athletes to the line to challenge in individual events.

    April 14, 2014

  • New roles, same goals for Arabians

    Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the first 13 years of the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament is that no team has repeated as champion.

    April 14, 2014

  • Track stars prepare for numbers game

    Track is a numbers game, not just with times and distances, but with roster sizes as well. Smaller schools often abandon the philosophy of competing for team titles when running against larger schools with nearly double the number of athletes. Instea

    April 14, 2014

  • SPT - HB0413 - Horseshoe Classic - 163 Arabians finish third in Horseshoe Classic It wasn't the place they wanted to be playing for, but the Pendleton Heights Arabians won their final game of the day to finish third in the Horseshoe Classic here Saturday.

    April 12, 2014 3 Photos

  • PH wins Yorktown invite Pendleton Heights and Alexandria opened the 2014 golf season as part of the 15-team field at the Yorktown Invitational. Despite the abundance of blue skies and sunshine, the weather may have been more of a challenge than the 18 holes at The Players Club.

    April 12, 2014

  • New faces dominate Tribe's roster At some point in the very near future — likely Monday — Anderson baseball coach Terry Turner will sit down with his players and explain the significance of the week ahead. He'll tell them who Nick Muller was and why he worked so very hard 14 years ago to help create a tournament that carries the former Indian's name.

    April 12, 2014

  • Area roundup: Daleville baseball takes two from Union City Daleville's bats were heated during its doubleheader against Union City on Saturday as the Broncos won the first game 24-0 and the second 13-0 in five innings each.

    April 12, 2014

  • Poore gets Street Stock victory Anderson’s Josh Poore took advantage of a restart to pass early leader Dustin Burge and capture the Street Stock feature at Anderson Speedway on Saturday.

    April 12, 2014

  • SPT - HB0413 - Alex baseball - DH - 2 Tigers turn it up to shut out Bulldogs Alexandria junior ace Blaize Kelly threw his second consecutive complete-game shutout Saturday, and the third-ranked Tigers turned a pitchers' duel into a laugher late in a 9-0 victory against visiting Clinton Central.

    April 12, 2014 4 Photos

Latest Sports Photos

Click here to browse and buy photos from The Herald Bulletin