They call Roderick Smith “Rocket” because of his speed, but even faster than his feet are his lips as they crack a smile.
Smith had plenty of opportunities to show off his pearly whites during the first half of Thursday’s season opener at Memorial Stadium when he scored four touchdowns to pace the Texans to a 45-16 shellacking of Arkansas-Monticello.
The senior running back, who was named the 2009 Lone Star Conference South Division Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, tied Tarleton single-game scoring and touchdown records before halftime, and also matched the school mark for touchdowns in a quarter with three in the second frame. In the second half, there was nothing left for him to do, except relax and smile.
Smith, who is nearing completion of a bachelor’s degree in communications, isn’t focused on records, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he’s breaking them while wearing the purple and white. By the end of next week’s contest at Northeastern State he is likely to be the school’s career touchdown leader, and by the end of the season he may top Tarleton’s all-time rushing chart.
“I don’t really think about the records,” said Smith the morning after his big 2009 debut. “I’m just focused on winning a conference championship. That’s my main goal.”
Even Smith would have to admit that nobody could have predicted Tarleton would handle Monticello as easily as they did, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“I felt like our linemen dominated the line of scrimmage and our receivers beat them on routes,” he said. “We dominated every position, that’s what was most impressive to me.”
Smith was relieved in the backfield by sophomore Evan Robertson, a North Texas transfer who actually led the team in rushing with 85 yards on eight carries. “Rocket” finished with 11 runs for 80 yards, all in the first half.
“I think of me and Evan as being like ‘LT’ (Ladanian Tomlinson) and Darren Sproles of the (San Diego) Chargers,” he said. “I handle the regular running and Evan comes in and makes everyone miss with his great feet.”
As his Tarleton career winds down week-by-week, Smith says it’s not the record-setting or winning he will remember the most about his time on campus.
“The fans and my teammates are the best thing about Tarleton. I enjoy being around them and talking to everybody after the games,” he said. “It’s just a great environment to be a part of.”
Smith, who is from Mesquite two hours east of Stephenville, also feels blessed to be playing close to home so his family can take part in his college football experience.
“That’s one of the best parts of playing at Tarleton is being able to have my parents, my grandparents and other family and friends be able to come see me succeed,” Smith said. “It’s great to look up in the stands and see the people you love most up there cheering me on.”
After graduating, Smith plans on entering a career that will allow him to remain close to the game he loves.
“I would like to keep playing, whether that’s in the NFL or any of the other leagues out there,” he said. “If I can’t do that I want to get into broadcasting so I can use my communications degree to still be part of the game.”
When Smith does hang up the purple and white jersey for the last time, he knows exactly how he wants to be remembered.
“I try to keep a smile on my face and never frown,” Smith said. “I want everyone to remember me as someone who was always smiling and happy.”
As he celebrates records, touchdowns and Tarleton wins, he won’t be the only one who never wears a frown. Texan fans will be happy, too, as long as Smith is wearing a smile.