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'World' Is Turning a Lot of Heads at Grambling

September 10, 1989|NEIL H. GREENBERGER | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — It is not every college football player who could walk up to Howard University's 360-pound Willie Felder and ask, "What's up, Tiny?"

But Saturday night at the New Jersey Meadowlands, when Howard meets Grambling in the Urban League's Whitney Young Classic, Felder will be just another little guy next to Grambling's Raymond "World" Smith III.

Few gave the 6-foot-6 Smith a chance of making it in college football, especially at the Division I-AA level, after he graduated from H.D. Woodson High School here tipping the scales at 465 pounds.

He went to Grambling in Louisiana, and even Eddie Robinson, the coach who has won more college games than anyone else, found something he could not believe.

"He was surprised I was this big, and he was surprised I could move," said Smith, a junior who has earned the starting job at left offensive tackle. "Most people are surprised at my quickness. They think I am like the average big person who can't move."

Grambling was unprepared to take on the World. As a freshman, Smith couldn't play in the first two games because the school could not obtain uniform pants big enough.

This was not a novel problem, however. At H.D. Woodson, his uniform pants consisted of two extra large pairs sewn together.

Last weekend, Grambling opened in Los Angeles with a 35-30 victory over Alcorn State. The trip gave Smith an opportunity commonplace for most people, but rare for him: he could weigh himself. The extra-capacity scale at the Los Angeles Raiders training facility said Smith's size 58 pants helped clothe 428 pounds -- before dinner.

Smith is playing on what is expected to be a top 20 Division I-AA team, and for a coach who has sent more players on to professional football than any other. All of which tells of Smith's development.

"He is a great pass blocker," Robinson said. "And when he traps them, they stay trapped. When he leads a sweep, they get swept."

Smith said he has worked hard to improve on blocking techniques since entering Grambling. His size leads most teams to test him quickly, usually with a variety of tricks.

"I am already used to all of the stunts," said Smith, who in sixth grade was 6-1, 365 and bigger than his father, himself a football player. "They usually line up a man over my head and try to get a speed rusher around me from the outside. But when they load up on my side, we just start running plays to the strong (right) side."

Howard, which upset Grambling in Giants Stadium last year, 35-20, is looking forward not only to the rematch but also a chance to go against a most unusual player.

"I am looking at it as a challenge," said David Westbrooks, Howard's 6-4, 253-pound right defensive end who will go at Smith most of the night. "One thing I know is that I will not try to bowl him over. It only took one time going head-to-head against Big Willie (an offensive tackle) in practice to learn that you have to get real low against someone that size."

Howard defensive coordinator Charlie West, who spent 12 years in the NFL with the Vikings, Lions and Broncos, said the Bison are likely to aggressively test Smith early.

"When you have a guy who weighs 420 pounds, it is hard to move him," West said. "But size never concerns me. It is effectiveness I am concerned with. I think I have seen every big man that has ever played the game. Most of my time with Denver, we were smaller than most other teams, but we were quick and found a way to beat a lot of those teams."

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