Monday, December 28, 2009

What happened to Onterrio Smith?

Countless people have asked me "What happened to Onterrio Smith?".

I have heard every "Wizzinator" joke possible. They were funny to so many people, but not to me. Onterrio was my college roommate, good friend, and one of the most talented football players I have ever seen. Now, he is a legend in Sacramento High School football, and infamous for his fall from grace. His is a story we have heard many times, but its different because he is MY friend; star athlete with everything it takes to be a professional athlete falls victim to violence, drugs, or tragedy.

If you ever wonder what football coaches dream about I'll tell you. They dream about players who are fast, powerful, elusive, strong, hard-working, tough, quick, mentally strong, with great hands, understands the game, leader, and a passion for being the best. They dream about Onterrio Smith. He was the best running back in the 2003 draft (even better than Willis McGahee), but slipped from a high 1st round pick to the 4th round because of "character issues" stemming from drug use. Mike Tice, former Minnesota Vikings head coach and current assistant coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, said Onterrio was the best running back he had ever coached, and that he could have been great. That is high praise coming from a man who played in the NFL for 14 years and has coached for longer than that.

Onterrio came from a broken home in the projects of Sacramento to be a football star at Grant High School. After an illustrious High School career he accepted a scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee. It was clear from his first day at school that he was a star both socially and on the field. The Volunteer fans only got to witness his amazing abilities for one season before he was kicked out for marijuana use.

Onterrio then transferred to the University of Oregon where we met. From the moment everyone met him they fell in love with his magnetic personality. "O- Smith" would light up the room with his smile. He is one of the most likable, giving, caring, and charismatic people I have ever met, and quickly became a loyal and trusted friend. His fall hurts me so much because I know how he grew up. I know his family, his kids, and his story.

I remember the day I realized everything had changed like it was yesterday. Onterrio returned home after being gone for 3 days wearing the same clothes he left in. That same day I got a phone call asking if he was ok because the night before he had been waking up in cold sweats. Something about those events and his behavior just didn't sit well will me, so I asked both 'Terrio (as we called him) and our other roommate about it. They both told me I was trippin', but in my heart I knew I wasn't. Ladies and Gentlemen, that was the beginning of the end.

Addiction has no socio-economic or cultural bias. It can happen to any family. It can happen to people who may seem to be on the top of the world and have everything to live for. Darryl Strawberry, Stanley Wilson Sr., Ken Caminiti, Michael Irvin, Eddie Griffin, and Len Bias are a short list of athletes who have been victims of addiction. O-Smith, who had the potential to be one of the best running backs in the NFL, is another sad example of how drugs can ruin a life and career.

I watch a show on A&E called Intervention, which is a video documentary about addicts and their struggle with addiction. A camera crew follows alcoholics, drug addicts, and people with OCD, eating disorders, and other addictions. Those featured on the show do not know that they will soon face an intervention by their family. After the intervention, the addicts must either elect to enter a treatment facility immediately, or face alienation from those they love. It is a great show but it's very sad to see how addiction affects not only the addict, but the toll it takes on their families and loved ones as well. Addiction has struck in my own family, but somehow Onterrio's struggle hurts worse because unlike my family, I witnessed it happening. I talked to him, prayed for him, and helped him through rehab, but it feels like I failed. One thing I learned from this is for an addict to get clean he or she has to want to do it more than anything else in the world.

No one wants to be a drug addict. People like using drugs and alcohol because of the feeling they get from it or to escape their problems, but no one wants to be like the people on Intervention. Those featured on the show are at rock bottom or near it. When people begin using drugs they never think they will end up meth, ecstasy, crack, heroine, cocaine, prescription pill or alcohol addicts. After watching Intervention, seeing famous people fall victim to addiction, and watching my friend's life and career tailspin out of control, I have but one thing to say: Just say no!!! However cliche it may sound, fact is that making one bad decision can shatter your dreams, ruin your life, and/or kill you.

One day I hope I can update this story with one of triumph, redemption, and recovery.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Not So Civil War

Breaking news: It is being reported that Oregon State head football coach Mike Riley will only be able to dress twenty players for the Oregon game. The rest of the players will have to get dressed by themselves!!

Eugene and Corvallis are separated by one highway, but the separation between the Green/Gold and the Black/Pumpkin Orange is much greater. In Eugene we have a saying, if you see a Beaver with a Championship ring, call the Police, He's a thief!!

The Civil War, Ducks vs Beavers, is not so civil!!! There couldn't be bigger differences between the two schools that are only about 47 miles apart. The rivalry is like Big Brother vs Little Brother, the Haves vs the Have-Nots, or the popular vs the unpopular kids. The Beavers look at themselves like blue-collar, hard workers who are the meat and potatoes of this country. They feel they earn everything they get, but we get everything handed to us on a silver platter. So when the Beavers play the Ducks they have a big chip on their shoulder, because they live in the humongous shadow of the "O". If the Beavs feel the Ducks look down on the kids that play for Corvallis, they should. We do! OSU is a team to be respected and never taken lightly, but Duck players and fans feel we should never lose to "little brother". The guys from Corvallis take our hand-me-downs and left-overs. We didn't want Orange so they took it. We get the newest uniforms, they get what is left. We get nationally televised games, they get the occasional regional broadcast plus radio. The Ducks are striving higher for National Championships while the Beavers are trying to climb fast to where we currently are.

Why is my disdain for the Beavers so great? Simple. I'm a Duck. During my four years at Oregon the Beavers beat us twice!!! That includes a 45-24 Shellacking in Corvallis my last year at Oregon. Until 3 days ago I had blocked that memory out of my mind. Honestly until I was reminded I really thought we won (I'm blocking, I know lol). It still haunts me. So yes, when we get a chance to knock off the Beavers for a Pac-10 championship and a Rose Bowl Bid, I'm going hard.

Classic Civil War story: One time during the week of the civil war Samie Parker, Onterrio Smith and I were in Red Robin and I saw TJ Housh "Your daddy" (OSU wide receiver) sitting there with his wife and daughter. I had our waitress deliver him a note that said we were gonna beat the breaks off of him. TJ is a friend of mine now and a great guy. I was talking to him about that before the season started and he said, "man, I thought I was gonna have to fight ya'll with the family there". LOL, it was all done in good fun. TJ got the last laugh tho, Oregon State won the game.

What makes the "Un"-Civil War so great? You never know who is gonna win. What's on the line in this game? BRAGGING RIGHTS! Two great programs competing with their whole heart and soul to represent the state of Oregon. If you win no one can say a word to you, if you lose you have a year of heckling to deal with. Both schools alumni have so much pride and love for our perspective schools that a loss is devastating. In addition, we want to be the team to represent the Conference of Champions (Pac-10) in the Rose Bowl.

This is the Biggest game in recent UO/OSU history. Winner goes to the Rose Bowl. The Ducks haven't been to the Rose Bowl since '95 (We did go to Fiesta Bowl in 02' though). The Beavers haven't been since 1965... That's a long time for both schools. And the intensity in Autzen Stadium will be nothing less then ELECTRIFYING!!!!

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