More Than a Running Back
Dec. 6, 2017

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Sure, Gopher fans know Rodney Smith is an elite running back, but he has flown under the radar in other areas on and off the field.

The two-time Bronko Nagurski Award (Team MVP) winner has 3,850 all-purpose yards (2,805 rushing, 419 receiving and 626 kick return) which ranks eighth in school history. He recorded 279 all-purpose yards (10 receiving, 134 rushing and 135 kick return) against Nebraska this season, which was tied for the seventh most in school history. In 2016 he recorded 1,609 all-purpose yards (12th most in school history in a single season) and this season he totaled 1,447 all-purpose yards (16th most in school history in a single season).

Not only does Smith rank sixth in rushing attempts (626), eighth in rushing yards (2,805) and ninth in rushing touchdowns (21), but he is currently the Gophers all-time leader in career kick return average. Smith has returned 22 kicks for 626 yards (28.5 avg.) in his career including two kick return touchdowns. Last season he returned a 94-yard kick to the house against Rutgers and this season he went 100 yards against Nebraska for a game opening touchdown.

Smith has also made 56 career receptions through three seasons which is just three shy of breaking into the top five all-time in school history for most catches by a running back. He needs just 11 receptions to crack into the top three all-time (Chuck Rios is first with 132 career receptions from 1990-94).

Smith has earned All-Big Ten Third Team and Honorable Mention honors in his career. He was also named the Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP in the Gophers victory over Washington State in 2016. Despite all his on field success Smith is rarely brought up in the discussion of top players in the Big Ten.


Perhaps quieter than his production on the field is what Smith does off the field. He has been an active volunteer with the Southside Village Boys and Girls Club throughout his time at Minnesota. His experience with the organization inspired him to change his major from kinesiology to youth studies. Through his major he worked an internship with Hennepin County Child Protection Services.

Though the junior from Jonesboro, Ga., has made an impact on many children he will never bring attention to what he does off the field. He prefers his actions speak louder than his words.

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