Markel Smith moves from right guard to new Iowa running back

It wasn't always TDs and stats for Smith

Published: February 6 2014 | 1:39 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:17 am in
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When you see a running back on this level, one who rushed for more than 7,000 yards in high school, you automatically assume he always played running back.

Markel Smith rushed for 7,144 yards during his four-year career at St. John Vianney High School in St. Louis, the second-most rushing yards in state history. As a senior, the 5-11, 210-pounder rushed for 2,416 yards and 33 TDs, including a game in which he carried 42 times for 541 yards.

Smith began his football career as a right guard. Actually, scratch that. When he tried out as a 6-year-old, he got cut.

"I did get cut in my first year of pads," Smith said. "I was cut when I was 6 years old. I went back the next year and played guard. I spent the next five years playing right guard."

Iowa is set on right guards, but it's in perpetual need at running back. Smith signed his letter of intent on Thursday and is recruit No. 19 for the 2014 Hawkeyes class. Smith also had offers from Missouri, Mississippi and Illinois.

Smith always wanted to try running back. Finally, as a 13-year-old, he got one carry in a blowout and zipped 70 yards for a TD.

"Every kid's dream is to play a skill position, quarterback, wide receiver or running back," Smith said. "I worked hard to get there, practiced hard and ran every day. I tried to be first in all of the drills. I had that one carry and have played running back ever since."

The right guard angle is a nice "in" with Smith, but the bullet point here is the work he put in, and continues to put in, to play running back on this level.

Smith embraces the weight room/workout grind. Now, he trains at Elite Academy in Chesterfield, Mo., as well as side workouts.

"I work hard everyday," Smith said. "Whatever the coach wants, I'm there. Even if he doesn't want it, I'm still going to do it. I'm not going to do things only when the coaches are around. I'm going to work when no one is around. That's what counts the most, hard work and dedication."

Results so far? Well, there's the 7,000 yards. Also, Smith has a bone to pick with websites that list his 40-yard dash time as 4.6 seconds. This also leads to Smith's description of his running style, comparing himself to Montee Ball, the former Wisconsin Badger and current Denver Bronco. Ball is from neighboring Wentzville, Mo.

"I'm not slow (laughs)," Smith said. "They [recruiting websites] haven't updated my times. They have me at 4.6. I ran a 4.4 my last 40. I guess a lot of people judge a book by its cover.

"I'm kind of a big guy, a Montee Ball-style running back with good speed. I'm not slow, so if you think you're catching me, you might have to work a little harder than you think you might have to."

Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson led Iowa's effort on Smith, who initially committed to Missouri. Smith said Iowa built a great level of trust. It also didn't hurt that the Hawkeyes have shown they will lean on a power running back if one emerges. Smith will likely get that chance.

During its signing day special, the Big Ten Network compared Smith to former Iowa running back Shonn Greene, also a power runner.

"That was a major key in my decision," Smith said. "Everyone knows Iowa is a powerhouse football team. They've got a good record of getting offensive linemen to the pros. Running backs work well with the linemen. The offense they run is definitely a fit for me and my style. That was a key."


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