Oct. 1, 2003
BERKELEY - If you ask his teammates, you will be told that Harrison Smith is exactly what you want in a player.
The sophomore cornerback's work ethic epitomizes the ideal that going the extra mile will pay off-a principle that is fundamental to the Golden Bears' success. Smith's teammates say he works hard every day of every week, without ever expressing a complaint. Not only has he experienced a serious shoulder injury (in 2002) and a switch in positions from safety to cornerback (in 2001), but he has also has endured the skeptics' criticism of his earlier performances this season.
But with the encouragement of his teammates, Smith quieted his critics with three pass deflections, four solo tackles and a blocked punt last weekend in Cal's upset over USC.
"He has never let criticism get to him," said junior defensive tackle Tom Sverchek. "He just keeps working hard. We never doubted that he could play well."
That unwavering confidence illustrates the team unity that some say was not apparent until head coach Jeff Tedford entered the scene. Tedford says his athletes now believe in one another, and they understand the concept of playing together. Asked about the team's reaction to Smith's critics, Tedford says he expects his players to be there for one another and to continue building each other's confidence on the field despite any public critique.
"We treat all setbacks as temporary," Tedford said. "When we stub our toe a bit, we just keep staying positive and staying together as a team."
"(USC's) Mike Williams is one of the best receivers in the nation, and Harrison shut him down," Cross said.
Smith's commitment to his rehab and training, backed by his team's faith in him, is just one of many shining examples of the dedication necessary to create and uphold the success of this Cal program. Junior defensive end Tosh Lupoi says that Smith's ability to rely on his team and play through injuries is symbolic of the way in which the entire team operates.
"He represents a lot of players on this team," said Lupoi. "We have all been asked to step up, and because of the hard work that guys like Harrison have put in, the steady improvement is showing."
If Harrison Smith is what you want in a player, then his loyal Bears are what you want on a team.
By Janet McKnight