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Nov. 6, 2013

By Melissa Dudek

In his five-year Cavalier career, wide receiver Tim Smith has orchestrated some huge plays on the field, including most-recently pulling in a career-high 151 receiving yards against Georgia Tech on Homecomings. Of his more than 1,552 career receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, Smith will forever be best remembered for a pair of catches that originated from his fellow wide receiver Perry Jones. Jones and Smith connected for a 37-yard touchdown in 2011 against Miami and 36-yarder in 2012 against Louisiana Tech.

It wasn’t just on the field that Smith and Jones had that special connection. The teammates at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va. have been close friends for a long time.

“Perry is like my brother, a little big brother,” Smith said. “He is probably one of the hardest workers I have ever seen. Whether it is in the weight room, in the classroom, watching film, or whatever it is, he just grinds so hard. I’ll never forget over the summer, even in high school, we worked out three or four times a day, between practice, before practice, after practice, all the time.”

Jones and Smith were just two players in the 2009 freshman class coming to Charlottesville from the Tidewater Beach area. The first-years bonded together to make the adjustment to playing at the collegiate level.

“Coming from high school, the game was a lot faster than I expected, but we came in with La’Roy Reynolds (2009-12) and LoVante’ Battle (2009-12), who were from our area,” Smith said. “We hung out together everyday. We were all hungry. We wanted to get better. We ran to and from workouts every morning from the dorms. People would try to give us rides, but we didn’t want that. We wanted to get after it. By the time camp officially started, we were grinding and adapting to the system.”

On a roster that has been littered with student-athletes from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Smith had played against many of his fellow and former Cavalier teammates in high school, including former UVa wide receiver walk-on Johnny Pickett (2008-11).

“Johnny Pickett gave us a loss in the 2007 state semifinals that was one of the most hurtful losses I have ever had,” Smith said. “We were playing Westfield, his high school, and it was just a tough game. The score was going back and forth and we were down for probably one of the only times that whole season. We were destined to have a great year and then Pickett beat me overtop on the post-route, while I was on defense, and I ended up catching him close to the two yard line, and they scored. Then we scored. I think we trailed 24-21 at one point. Then they kicked it off to us after they scored, our returner caught it and he fumbled. There was a minute left, so that basically sealed the deal. That just hurt. Then I came here and had to see Pickett every day. We always talked and laughed and joked about it, but that definitely still hurts me to this day.”

On the other side of that equation, there were many players who had come out on the short end of high-school gridiron matchups against Smith and his juggernaut of a high school team, Oscar Smith High School. There was one Cavalier teammate that Smith dominated more often than the rest.

“I definitely gave Javanti Sparrow (2009) some bad days in high school,” Smith laughed about another former Cavalier teammate. “He went to Western Branch, and it was in our district, so we played against them every year. It was always he and I going at it, and I usually won that match up. We got into it a couple times in high school. I never let him live it down when we were out here.”

Smith’s high school days were well behind him as he prepared to start his 2013 senior season, playing for the first time without Jones on the same sideline. Before the start of Smith’s 2010 season, he suffered a serious set back that sidelined him while Jones, Reynolds, Battle and the rest of the 2009 freshman class moved into their sophomore season.

“I basically tore both ligaments in my ankle,” Smith recalled. “I tried to get through camp as much as I could and made it through the first couple of games. The USC game was when I had to stop playing. After that, I just knew it was time because I wasn’t going to benefit the team. I was hurting myself more than I was helping myself, so I had the surgery a couple weeks after and I sat out.

“I was on crutches from October to March. The doctor told me it was going to be a twelve-month recovery, which meant I wasn’t going to be ready until the next October, but I was ready by a couple weeks before camp. I was doing everything I could- treatment three to four times a day. I just wanted to get back out there.”

Smith met his goal, playing in the 2011 season-opener against William & Mary. He had been granted a medical hardship, making him a redshirt sophomore that year, putting him a season behind Jones and the rest of his class.

“It’s been a little different playing this year without Perry,” Smith said. “He’s coaching at Albemarle High School, so he’s still here even though he’s not out there. I mean it when I say that he is my brother. I know he’ll always be there for me and vice versa.”

It’s been a tough season for Smith and all of the Cavaliers, but he has an inner dialogue that helps keep him motivated on the field and off.

“You just have to stay encouraged,” Smith said. “Everything in life is not going to go your way. You have to take obstacles for what they are. I’ve had down points in my life, and down seasons, and moments that made me keep going. Never give up, that’s what I believe. I’m from a hardworking family. My grandma still works to this day and she’s almost 80. It’s instilled in me.”

That grandmother, Carrie Smith, is one of the people in his life that he draws inspiration from.

“My grandma has three or four older ladies that she takes care of, making sure their houses are clean and everything is straight. She keeps them company. It’s small work, but she gets up early in the morning. Sometimes she calls me before I wake up. ‘Just calling to check on you.’ Then she goes to work. She gets off at 2 o’clock, but she’s still going, running around outside, keeping the gardens straight and just doing little stuff afterwards – I love that about her.”

Smith also shares his wisdom, and the lessons he has learned from his grandmother, with his teammates because he sees that as one of his responsibilities.

“With me being an older guy and guys looking up to me, being down it doesn’t help at all. You have to keep people up, keep people encouraged. I just try to do what I can as much as I can for my group. I hope it will show on offense and trickle down from there. I also pray every day. I just talk to Him and hope everything will just keep going and keep working out. You just have to keep pressing on.”

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