ORLANDO, Fla. -- Kevin Smith's sensational junior season at the University of
Central Florida won't be his last. The All-American, who's closing in on Barry Sanders'
single-season rushing record, said Tuesday he will return for his
"I have a lot of things that I want to work on, for me," Smith
said. "I think before I enter a business where you're discussing
money and your life's going to change, I want to be bigger, faster,
stronger. I want to be at the top of my athletic ability before I
go on to a field like that."
Smith has run for 2,448 yards, 180 short of the NCAA record
Sanders set in 1989. Smith has a chance to catch Sanders in the
Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State on Dec. 28.
UCF coach George O'Leary, a former NFL defensive coordinator,
had vowed to work his old pro contacts for a realistic look at where
Smith would go. Smith promised to rely heavily on his advice, and
apparently did. Despite some predictions Smith could be selected in
the first round, O'Leary said low-second to fourth round was more
"It's a crapshoot, really," O'Leary said. "Normally people
don't go after running backs in that first round unless they're
exceptional. And there's probably one or two that may do it, but
that's 32 teams making decisions."
Smith said he also wasn't trying to anticipate whether other top
underclassmen rushers such as Arkansas' Darren McFadden would be
"It's about me getting better," Smith said. "If I'm going to
go out there and go to the NFL, where my life is on the line and
dealing with money, why should I sell myself short? Because I ran
for 2,000 yards?"
Smith said he took out an injury insurance policy before the
Dec. 1 Conference USA championship game, in which he ran for 284
yards. He declined to give specifics, but said the amount could
increase next year if he got hurt and ruined his pro chances.
Smith, from Miami, said he consulted most with his mother -- she wanted him to earn a degree, as does he. Smith also wants to leave a
more lasting mark on UCF, a young program trying to crack the ranks
of marquee schools.
"I want to have a chance to lead my team," Smith said. "I
want them to say, 'When Kevin was a senior, this is what he got out
of this group.' That's what I want."
Smith's profile rose tremendously after the nationally televised
C-USA championship performance, but the junior doesn't believe
peaked. Even if he doesn't break Sanders' record, he should
challenge former Wisconsin back Ron Dayne's Division I career
rushing record of 6,397 yards next season. Smith is 1,837 yards
"A lot of people say, 'You ran for 2,400 yards this year, what
else could you do?' " Smith said. "I think if I run for 1,800 and
be the all-time leading rusher, will my stock rise or fall for next