SAN DIEGO -- Timmy Smith was surprised any NFL team was interested enough to draft him this spring after he missed his final two years at Texas Tech with serious knee and ankle injuries.
Now he's speechless that he might start at running back for the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos Sunday at Jack Murphy Stadium. Washington running backs coach Don Breaux said Thursday the rookie might start over George Rogers, who aggravated a sprained ankle in practice Wednesday.
Breaux said the team planned to start Rogers, but that is uncertain.
'Every day (Rogers) seems to kind of twist his ankle. So now we're going to take a look at (starting Smith). It wouldn't be a real major surprise,' Breaux said.
'I don't think I deserve to start,' Smith said. 'I'm a rookie and George has been here (in the NFL) six or seven years. I think I just like to play the role I've been playing.'
Since being taken in the fifth round in April's draft, Smith has steadily regained his running form to the point where he has emerged as Washington's most productive runner in the playoffs. While Rogers has remained the starter, Smith has rushed for 138 yards on 29 carries in playoff victories over Chicago and Minnesota, while Rogers gained just 59 yards on 18 carries.
'We want to get him in there. He's evolved, I think, into an excellent runner,' Coach Joe Gibbs said.
Smith has made a long journey from obscurity to the biggest game in professional football. Smith was highly coveted when he came out of Hobbs (N.M.) high school after setting the state high school record for single-season rushing (2,306 yards) as a senior and he showed his potential almost immediately for Texas Tech.
As a sophomore, he gained 139 yards in a victory over Texas A&M. However, he injured knee cartilage and ligaments against New Mexico in the first game of his junior year and then sustained a dislocated ankle in practice after the first game of his senior year.
'I didn't think I would get drafted,' he said. 'I felt I would get a free agent tryout or something.
'I watched the first four hours of the draft, but I started getting migraine headaches wondering if somebody was going to give me a chance. So I fell asleep and all of a sudden the phone rings. My brother answered it and said it was the Washington Redskins. I thought he was playing with me,' Smith said. 'Then I talked to (Washington General Manager) Bobby Beathard and he said they drafted me in the fifth round. I don't know why they drafted me. They had some of the best running backs in the league.'
Smith, at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds, possesses the strength of a fullback and the size of a tailback.
Breaux said Smith regained confidence in himself when the coaching staff had him mimick the running back of opposing teams in practice, which pitted him against Washington's starting defensive players.
'I think this was really beneficial because he got knocked around and I think he really re-honed his running skills,' Breaux said. 'Defensive players really had respect for him and we were impressed.'
Smith has cut deeply into the playing time of Rogers and third-down back Kelvin Bryant, but said that hasn't affected his relationship with the veterans.
'We're some of the best friends, me, George and Kelvin, on and off the field. We're not going to let alternating affect our friendship,' Smith said.
Smith hopes his newfound good luck continues.
'I think I've had my share of bad luck,' he said. 'Now the ball is bouncing my way -- and hopefully it will continue to do that.'
The Redskins practiced for two hours at the University of San Diego in the team's last hard workout before the game. The team will hold light workouts Friday and Saturday.