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Cannon Smith aims to deliver on time at Miami

August 10, 2008|From the Associated Press

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- No matter what, Cannon Smith will never be just another Miami quarterback.

He knows that.

No, the reality -- fair or not -- is that he'll probably always be Cannon Smith, the son of FedEx chairman Fred Smith, one of the richest and most powerful businessmen on the planet. Or Cannon Smith, the kid who got charged with possessing ecstasy and headed to a military academy for a year instead of enrolling at Mississippi as he'd planned. Or Cannon Smith, the guy who presumably got a chance to appear in movies only because of his family's copious wealth.

"He's got to work twice as hard," Fred Smith said. "That goes with the territory. There's a lot of benefits, being my kid. A lot of negatives, too."

So rarely, if ever, has Cannon Smith just been plain old Cannon Smith.

Until now, that is. At Miami, maybe for the first time, he can feel like everyone else.

"These guys around here, my teammates, none of that is anything to them," Smith said. "I'm just another teammate and another player to them. They treat me like family. It really isn't a distraction and it feels good to just be one of the guys on the team."

That's all he's ever wanted.

Clearly, there's no special favors at play here -- he's facing a battle just to get playing time with the Hurricanes.

Smith, Robert Marve and Jacory Harris are essentially competing for two quarterback spots; because none of them has ever played on the major college level before, Miami intends to declare one the starter and have another one play regularly in an effort to create necessary depth at the position. Marve and Harris both grew up in Florida and were record-setting high school quarterbacks, so most people believe that they'll be the two who take the snaps.

But Miami coach Randy Shannon won't discount Smith's shot.

"I'm not going to leave Cannon out," Shannon said. "He's gotten stronger. He's bulked up since he got here. Cannon's done a great job."

Even so, Smith might seem like a long shot. His resume, however, suggests he can compete.

Smith threw for 2,314 yards and had 34 touchdowns (27 passing) at Olive Branch (Miss.) High in 2006. But shortly after that season ended, Smith was charged with having ecstasy in the Mercedes he was driving, and that wound up sending him to prep school at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, where he wound up being one of the most coveted recruits at the prep level and threw for 476 yards in a single game.

The legal issues were eventually resolved, and Miami welcomed Smith with open arms.

"He learned a very big lesson there," said Fred Smith, who graduated from Yale, won two Purple Hearts in Vietnam and founded FedEx 37 years ago. "He never ducked the issue. I think in a perverse way, it helped him. Partly because of that, he decided to take the year at Hargrave, which is a very tough environment. It helped him. He did learn a lesson from that and going to a prep school like that made it very easy for him to go to a place like Miami."

There's one part of his past that Cannon Smith will never shake. The first name, perhaps the most perfect name ever given to a quarterback.

Alas, it's just a nickname, one he got shortly after birth, long before his family knew he'd be blessed with a powerful arm. His given name is Frederick Buchanan Smith, named for his great-grandfather, Capt. James Buchanan Smith, who guided steamships through the South. Buchanan got shortened to Cannon, and six years later, the kid who is the youngest of 10 children started playing football.

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