Back History to Heisman for DeVonta Smith

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History to Heisman for DeVonta Smith

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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After a play for the ages as a freshman, the incomparable Heisman Trophy is a fitting and fantastic finish for Smith as a senior.

For any Heisman Trophy winner, the award is a step into history. Alabama's DeVonta Smith has long been in stride. He promptly sprinted into greatness as a true freshman, winning a national championship with a walk-off 41-yard touchdown reception in overtime, running free down the sidelines on a 2nd-and-26 for arguably the most iconic catch college football has ever seen. Smith has gone on to 43 touchdown grabs, the most in SEC history, 50 wins, three playoff appearances, two SEC Championships, one national title and counting.

After a play for the ages as a freshman, the incomparable Heisman Trophy is a fitting and fantastic finish for Smith as a senior. This is a career that has come full circle; that spotlight, more than any defender, is about all that has stayed with Smith during his time in Tuscaloosa.

This season, Smith leads the nation in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,641) and receiving touchdowns (20). Smith, furthermore, ranks number in the country in punt return average (24.33), with one special teams score. He also has a rushing touchdown. Versatility is part of what makes Smith so special. When a John Metchie hit on Trey Dean forced an early fumble following an interception in the SEC Championship Game, it was Smith who recovered it. Later in the contest, with Florida attempting an onside kick down just one score, Smith recovered that as well.

Smith has done everything for the undefeated top-ranked team in the country, which is why he is the first receiver to win the Heisman in 30 years. Keep in mind that all of his production has come against SEC competition, along with Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff.

The consistency with which Smith has made plays is truly remarkable. He has at least six receptions in every game this season, expect one; in that outing, he returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown against Arkansas. Perhaps the Ole Miss showcase was Smith's springboard into the national conversation as he caught 13 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown, adding a 14-yard rushing score in a game where Alabama totaled 63 points. In some ways, however, even that performance was a letdown for the all-time talent as Smith went for 274 yards and five touchdowns against the Rebels the year prior.

There are prime showings all throughout the schedule. In a matchup of top five teams, with the Crimson Tide facing the nation's top-ranked defense, Smith caught eleven passes for 167 yards and two scores versus Georgia. He topped the 200-yard mark, with four touchdowns, against Mississippi State. A meeting with defending national champion LSU came with eight catches for 231 yards and three trips to the endzone in Death Valley. Then came 15 grabs in an the SEC Championship Game victory over Florida. Though played after voting was submitted, Smith scored three more times in a Rose Bowl triumph over Notre Dame.

Not only has Smith been unstoppable, he has been at his best against the best. The big stage has been his muse.

The record-setting Smith leads all receivers nationally with 143 yards per game against foes with winning records and leads all wideouts who have played more than one such contest with 136 receiving yards against ranked opponents. Entering the national championship game with Ohio State, Smith has at least 130 receiving yards in six of his last seven games, scoring on special teams in the lone omission. He also has at least one touchdown in ten of his last eleven outings overall.

If you count only Smith's scores from pairings with Mississippi State, LSU, Florida and Notre Dame, he would still be tied for first in the SEC with 12 receiving touchdowns.

In a shortened year with great receiver play, Smith still stood out. With more opportunity remaining, he has 19 more receptions and 448 more yards than the next most productive player, Ole Miss superstar Elijah Moore, who had an outstanding season, and eight more touchdowns than the next Power Five finisher in Florida's Kyle Pitts. Smith, by himself, has more receiving scores than the likes of Georgia, Texas Tech and Notre Dame. He has 65 catches of ten or more yards, 17 more than the next in line.

With one more score, Smith, currently tied with LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, will set a new single season record for receiving touchdowns in the SEC. Smith needs 140 yards to set the new yardage mark and eight more catches to move into second on the receptions list. For his career, Smith already holds the touchdown record by a wide margin. With ten more yards, he will become the league's all-time standard-bearer for production. A move to second on the receptions list is also within reach.

Having already made history, expect Smith to make more on Monday. After all, he has a flare for the dramatic in championship games. 

Smith has helped Alabama lead Power Five football with 48.2 points per game, rank number one nationally with a 59.26% third down conversion rate and have the most passing plays of 60 yards or more with seven. As the top playmaker in the game, Smith has also helped fellow Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones be on the verge of setting a new single-season passer parting record for college football as he is currently at 203.03, ahead of Joe Burrow's mark of 201.96. Jones paces the country with 77% passing and 11.3 yards per attempt.

Just as Smith has helped his teammates, with Alabama set to play for another national championship, he may, too, be helping his positional peers. The first wide receiver to win the Heisman since Michigan's Desmond Howard, maybe Smith's work will help pundits pay more attention to others beyond just quarterbacks and running backs alone. This is a talent who constantly makes those around him better. Fittingly, Smith is now part of college football's most exclusive fraternity, one featuring only the best of the best.

What an honor for Smith, who finished ahead of a star-studded group of finalists in Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Jones and Florida's Kyle Trask. Surprisingly, Smith is only Alabama's third winner, joining Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. Smith's work out wide only adds to the incredible legacies of the likes of Amari Cooper, Julio Jones, Ozzie Newsome and David Palmer for the Crimson Tide. In addition to his individual distinctions, Smith was arguably part of the greatest collection of playmakers in the history of the game in 2018 with Biletnikoff winner Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs III and Irv Smith, Jr.         

Smith's career has been an absolute work of art. Though Tuesday night came with a sculpture and a portrait, priceless traditions that display and frame greatness in all its splendor, Smith's signature on the cover of college football's all-time media guide came four years before.

By winning the Heisman Trophy, Smith didn't just become part of history, he became more a part of it, instead.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports