At the end of the 2019 season, DeVonta Smith had plenty of reasons to forgo his senior year and head to the NFL. Even in a loaded class he had a legitimate chance to go in the first round, and most certainly would not have fallen out of the second. Riches were there for the taking.
Fortunately for college football fans, this superstar decided to return to school, finish his degree and compete for another national title. He produced from the outset, opening the season with 89 yards on 8 catches at Missouri. Still, at the midpoint of the season, the Heisman was a two horse race between QB Kyle Trask of Florida and Smith’s own QB, Alabama’s Mac Jones.
In the fifth game of the season Smith’s running mate, fellow speedster Jaylen Waddle, suffered an ankle injury serious enough to put him out for the rest of the season. It was a seemingly devastating blow for the Tide offense. We knew it would still be good, but considerable dropoff seemed inevitable.
Fortunately for Nick Saban and company Smith, otherwise known as “The Slim Reaper,” blew the hell up.
All he did over the next six games was catch 53 passes for 955 yards and 13 touchdowns, capped off by a 15 catch, 184 yard performance in the SEC Championship Game that the Tide desperately needed.. Smith seized this award by stepping up when his team needed him the most, showing outstanding leadership in the process.
Our own Brent C. Taylor said it best in his “making the case” post.
When you watch DeVonta Smith, the word dominance just keeps coming to mind. He’s skinny for a football player, yet we often see him pushing headfirst through two defenders to pick up a critical first down. He’s faster than anyone else on the field. Cornerbacks can’t keep up with him when he’s pulling off route-running footwork that most pro receivers can’t do.
Throw it deep? He’ll out run you. Throw him a screen? He breaks your tackle and then outruns you. Throw it high? He’ll out jump you. Throw it low? He makes a shoe string catch. When he’s open, he’s calling for the ball. And when he’s single covered? He’s still calling for the ball.
Smith is a quiet guy, but those little displays of confidence exhibit his absolute mastery of the position of wide receiver. That kind of borderline arrogance backed up by dominant play is something only seen in one or two superstars in any given time in any given sport.
Smith is the third Alabama player to win the Heisman and only the fourth wide receiver. He will field no questions about individual awards, of course. This permanent team captain’s main goal is still in front of him, and I wouldn’t bet against him.
Congratulations, DeVonta. No one could be more deserving.