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Out Of Nowhere


Out Of Nowhere
Clifton Smith Began As An Undrafted Free Agent, But He Opened Eyes When He Got His Chance


By MARTIN FENNELLY

mfennelly@tampatrib.com

TAMPA - Monday, Bucs defensive end Greg White handed us a copy of the court document announcing petitioner's present name, Gregory Alphonso White Jr., is changed to Stylez G. White.

"Stylez, after the guy in 'Teen Wolf.'"

The Bucs can all change their names if they lose to San Diego on Sunday - to Mud.

Amid all the doom and gloom, there's hope.

By the way: "Teen Wolf"?

But there's hope.

In fact, here came Hope into the locker room early Wednesday afternoon, fresh from a nap in the trainer's room at One Buc. As if he has awakened from this dream.

From undrafted free agent, to cut in training camp, to joining the Bucs' practice squad, to joining the NFL less than two months ago ? and now a trip to Hawaii.

At training camp, he was nicknamed "Peanut" by Bucs special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. Now the 5-foot-8 Clifton Smith is the return man for the NFC in the Pro Bowl. He's only the second Bucs rookie to make Hawaii. The other one, Warrick Dunn, phoned Smith to congratulate him after Smith got the news, news Smith didn't believe at first.

"They told me I made the Pro Bowl, and I was OK, is Ashton [Kutcher] supposed to jump out of the bushes and say, 'Clifton Smith, you've been punk'd.'"

It's all real.

He phoned his mom in Fresno, Calif.

"She screamed real loud," Smith said. "She nearly blew my eardrums out."

There's always hope.

"I did think about that a lot last night," Smith said. "Coming in as an undrafted free agent, when after the draft no team really wanted to give me a chance, going practice squad, now going to the Pro Bowl, it's a great story."

He writes the words "One Chance" on his Football shoes. He tore his knee apart three years ago while a running back at Fresno State. There was a chance he'd never play again. He didn't become a Buc until late October. He only got his chance at returning kicks and punts because drafted rookie Dexter Jackson wasn't cutting it.

One chance.

Two touchdowns later, Peanut had a real home.

He didn't ask questions. He went to work. When he kept fumbling, Bisaccia told Smith to carry a Football everywhere he went, Smith carried it everywhere. "To the bathroom stall," he said.

It's not far from the penthouse to the outhouse. Go ask Dexter Jackson. Or find Michael Spurlock. Last year, it was Spurlock who was the talk of the town after becoming the first Buc to run a kick back for a touchdown in a regular-season game. Now he's on the practice squad.

Tough league.

Tough game for the Bucs this Sunday.

The Bucs have lost two in a row.

The playoffs are in doubt.

But there's always hope.

Hope has a name.

Clifton Smith.

Photo credit: Tribune photo by CLIFF McBRIDE

Photo: Clifton Smith had plenty to smile about after his 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Chiefs last month.

Copyright ? 2008, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 19, 2008

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