January 13, 2012
Eugene Cyril Smith III is the latest in a long list of athletes who have caused excitement on the Bahamian scene.
Bahamians like sports. During the 1930s when the British civil servants introduced cricket to this country in a substantive way, Bahamians gravitated to the sport in a big way. During the 1940s, heavyweight Joe Louis (Brown Bomber) and welterweight/middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson, plus a number of other exciting American boxers developed a strong fan base in The Bahamas.
In the mid 1940s, news of a young American baseball player named Jackie Robinson who performed in the negro leagues with a number of other black luminaries of the day, reached The Bahamas. In 1947 when he broke the color barrier in the previously totally white major leagues by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson immediately captivated Bahamian sports fans.
He started the passion for baseball in this country. Down through the years, Bahamians took their place on the world stage in a variety of sports disciplines. A little known fact was the success of Charlie Major Sr. as one of the best high jumpers in the world during the late 1920s and the 1930s on the collegiate circuit in the United States.
Inside the country, Bahamians reveled in the success of star class skipper Durward Knowles and his crewmen Sloane Farrington and later Cecil Cooke. In boxing, Yama Bahama was the nation's first prime time television star. He was followed by Gomeo Brennan and Elisha Obed.
Andre Rodgers pioneered a small elite group of six Bahamians who played in the major leagues. He started the ball rolling in 1957. Subsequently, Tony Curry, Wenty Ford, Ed Armbrister, Will Culmer and last year, Antoan Richardson joined the rank. Tommy Robinson carried an entire nation on his shoulders by being the lone member of The Bahamas delegation to the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, winning a gold medal (220 yards) and silver (100 yards) to boot. He formally, at that meet, sent the message to the world that there was quality track talent in The Bahamas.
Of course, later, world class hurdler Danny Smith, Frank Rutherford, the 'Original Golden Girls', the deep quarter-mile group, Tonique Williams-Darling, high jumper Donald Thomas and juniors Shaunae Miller and Anthonique Strachan greatly excited Bahamians. In swimming, most recently, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace rose to the level of being the best in the United States and one of the top world sprinters in the pool.
Ed Smith, back during the 1970s, took the Bahamian banner to the National Football League (NFL). He was followed by Samari Rolle, Devard Darling, Alex Smith (Ed's son), Myron Rolle, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, as the Bahamian flavor got stronger in the NFL.
Sterling Quant was drafted to the old American Basketball Association (ABA) that merged with the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1976. Two years later, Micheal (Mychal) Thompson was the first player selected in the NBA Draft. He was followed by Dexter Cambridge and Rick Fox. Now two of Mychal sons, Mychel and Klay, are on NBA teams.
What about Eugene Cyril Smith III?
Well, now he is under the microscope. His excellent showing in carrying his West Virginia squad to victory in the Discover Orange Bowl Championship over Clemson recently has made him the new sports darling for Bahamians. His granddaddy is Larry Smith, the brother of Danny. His great granddaddy is Cyril Smith I.
He is a junior at West Virginia and figures to play a senior year there and come out as one of the top products in the 2013 NFL Draft. What are they saying about Geno?
After the West Virginia/Clemson game, the tweets and the blogs went wild about the kid with strong Bahamian roots.
"Geno does have certain skills that are NFL quality (arm strength, accuracy), but he does have to work through his progressions a little, and know when to scramble at times."
"He is constantly shuffling in place in the pocket because he is reading plays and needs to make a quick throw off his front foot. This can be confused by an amateur as 'happy feet' when in fact it is perfectly fine. He does it more often because college WRs (wide receivers) are slower and reading coverages is also slower."
"One thing that will help Geno in the long run is he tends to stay in the pocket more often than not, and doesn't run out immediately. NFL scouts want to see QBs hang in the pocket to make passes, but, with that being said, I still don't think he's quite ready. After a year, he will be improved."
"In all fairness to Geno, he really didn't have a great offensive line. He is still one of the best college QBs."
"Geno, when given proper blocking, is an exceptional QB with a lot of resolve."
"Geno has good size (6'3", 214 pounds), good mechanics, good feet, strong arm, and has shown nice resolve in bringing the team back late in games. My only question is, how well does he read and diagnose the defense?"
There you are. That's only a small portion of the comments following his sensational seven-touchdown (six passing and one running) effort against Clemson. Smith will indeed be a big focus for Bahamians during the next collegiate season.
To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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