BY PETE HOLTERMANN
When Charlie Smith was 7, he began playing touch football in the streets of Newport with older brothers Gary and Donald. As Charlie's football career developed, his brothers were always a part of it.
Charlie Smith says his older brother Gary was a better passer ...
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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Gary got Charlie involved in playing organized ball at a young age. When Charlie was in junior high, he spent Friday nights watching with wide eyes as Gary led Newport High School as the quarterback.
"I always went to his games," Charlie said. "He's the one who put the football in my hands when I got old enough. I wanted to be quarterback like him.
"Now I've got my chance."
Charlie will be the first to admit Gary was a better passer, but Charlie's strong running game combines with his passing touch to make him a force for the Wildcats. As a junior, he threw for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns, rushed for 1,240 yards and 18 TDs, and woke up the echoes of a proud program.
... but running makes Charlie a double threat.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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Coming off a 10-2 season in which Newport ranked as high as third locally and fourth in the Class AA state poll -- its highest rankings in 18 years -- Smith is the centerpiece of this season's chase of a potential first state championship.
"We set up our offense in such a way that every time we call a pass, Charlie has what we call a 'run/pass' option," Newport coach Roy Lucas Sr. said. "We tell him if he sees green grass in front of him without the wrong color jersey around, run the football."
Smith doesn't run the way quarterbacks typically run. Don't expect to see him bolting to get out of bounds or sliding to avoid a tackle.
Born: June 26, 1982|
Family: Gary Sr. (father) works at Juvenile Justice Center; Gary Jr. (brother) graduated from Newport in 1993, works for U.S. Postal Service; Donald (brother) graduated from Newport in 1999.
1998 stats: Threw for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns; rushed for 1,240 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns.
"Charlie is more of a power runner," Lucas said. "He'll try to run over you before he'd try to run around you."
Not only is Smith a double-threat on his own, but he is joined in the backfield by senior tailback Nick Partin. Last season, Partin complemented Smith's yardage with 1,503 rushing yards and 15 TDs.
Early last season, teams were expecting Partin to run the ball, and set their defenses up to stop him.
"We went to Charlie to rush the football more to take some pressure off Nick," Lucas said. "I think it certainly did as the season went on."
Said Smith: "Nick helps me a lot with my yards. Defenses start keying on him to run, and they forget about me."
When the Wildcat offense is most effective, Smith sets up in a shotgun formation with Partin in the backfield with him.
"When I'm in the shotgun, the defense is going to play pass, so we've already got a couple of yards on them," Smith said.
It should come as no surprise that Smith loves to run the option with Partin.
"The way I see it is you can't stop us both," Smith said. "When we're running down the field in the option, you have to choose one to stop."
Smith will run when needed this year, but he is focusing more on his passing game as the season opens.
"I want to shoot for 2,000 (yards) passing this year," he said. "I'll run the ball if I have to, but I mainly want to pass the ball this year."
To help the passing game, Smith has worked with Newport quarterback coach Mark Goetz. Goetz has helped Smith to read defenses better, a skill that will also help in his running game.
Brother Gary will play a big role in Charlie's improvement as a quarterback. He still lives in Newport and works for the post office when he's not at Newport games or talking with Charlie.
"I learn something new from him after every game," Charlie said. "He'll always tell me that I did this wrong and need to work on it. So I'll go do it."
This will be Charlie's first year without his other brother, Donald, on the sideline with him. Donald graduated this spring after setting Newport's career tackles record.
"They were pretty competitive, just like any other brothers," Lucas said.
Even though Charlie hopes to improve this season, he's overwhelmed by his accomplishments.
"I have a scrapbook that I keep things in," he said. "I look at that and say, 'Dang! How'd I rush and pass for 1,000?' "