HATTIESBURG — The first time I saw Martez Smith, he was a freshman on the University of Southern Mississippi football team, and I had to look his name up in the game program. I had never heard of him.
But I had just watched him race down the middle of the field, covering a kickoff, a human blur. He beat his teammates by nearly 10 yards in what amounts to a 50-yard sprint. He rammed through the opposing team’s blocking wedge and then nailed the return guy inside the 20-line. It was a stunning display of speed and strength.
A few minutes later, USM kicked off again, and I told two NFL scouts sitting nearby: “Put your binoculars on No. 32, next to the kicker. You aren’t going to believe this.”