STARKVILLE – Tobias Smith’s injury-riddled college career has at times discouraged and frustrated him, but it’s never cost him his sense of humor.
Wearing a protective boot on his right foot, just for precautionary measures, Mississippi State’s starting right guard said Monday he’s “100 percent” healthy but could joke about his past issues.
“People at the beginning of the year, it’s kind of funny, because people were asking me, ‘Where’s your boot at this year?’ I told them I’ve got two – I just rotate them, one foot one day and the other foot the next day,” Smith said.
Big things were expected out of Smith when he came to MSU from nearby Columbus High School in 2008. He was expected to play quite a bit in his freshman season but broke an ankle and had season-ending surgery.
Smith was in the mix again the following preseason but was limited to three games with another ankle injury.
“It’s kind of discouraging, because you’re like, when’s it going to be my chance?” he said.
Finally, Smith was healthy enough last season to play 12 games, alternating between right and left guard and drawing one start. He missed a game with a shoulder injury and had offseason surgery to fix it, which cost him some time in the spring.
Smith has bounced back time and again, no matter how tough it’s been.
“It’s been pretty hard, because every injury is like a physical and a mental setback,” he said, “so for me to come back from all the injuries I’ve had is a major positive.”
Now, the fourth-year junior is settled in as the starting right guard. With a nearly full season under his belt, Smith is getting a chance to blossom as a player.
That’s good for MSU, which is replacing stalwarts J.C. Brignone at center and Derek Sherrod at left tackle.
“Watching Tobias, playing with Tobias year by year, he’s going to be a good player,” said senior Quentin Saulsberry, who’s taken over at center. “Sometimes I feed off him, him and Gabe (Jackson), guys that are right beside you, right there in the trenches in the middle of everything. So as a player he’s grown tremendously.”
At 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, Smith is an imposing presence in the interior of the Bulldogs’ line, which the last two seasons has paved the way for one of the nation’s strongest rushing attacks.
Saulsberry said Smith brings a lot to the table when he’s healthy.
“He brings excitement, he brings power. He brings that swagger to the offensive line.”
Despite being on the sidelines so much, Smith doesn’t feel he has any more catching up to do, either physically or mentally. He’s enjoying his good health, but that protective boot is a reminder that it could all go south with one wrong step.
Meanwhile, Smith will keep smiling. He said people often ask him exactly what the doctors had to do to fix his broken ankle.
“I always tell them, ‘I was sleeping, so I don’t know.’ I never asked questions,” Smith said, “because I trusted the doctors and what they do. I ain’t a doctor, so I just let them do their work.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal