Brains mesh with brawn for Smith

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Warner Smith couldn't quite get his bearings for a brief moment this season.

He had suffered a concussion in the New Mexico State game after someone fell on him and all of a sudden he had no idea where he was.

When asked where he went to high school and what year he graduated, he couldn't tell them.

"It was actually a pretty good buzz," Smith said.

He felt sick during the beginning of the week and had to sit out practice. Fortunately, it was Arizona's bye week.

"The next couple of days I couldn't remember where I parked my car," he said. "I would tell people the same things five times because I couldn't remember telling them. It was real frustrating after a while."

Aside from those brief troubles, Smith has rebounded from an injury-plagued year last season to become one of the leaders on an offensive line filled with leaders.

With his stocky build and his distinct red beard, Warner Smith fits in well with the cast of characters that compose the offensive line.

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound right guard is in the Dick Tomey mold, a guy who doesn't measure up to most coaches' dimension requirements but who has evolved into one of the best in the country at his position.

"To be a guard, you need to have some quickness to be able to pull and get around on the sweeps," offensive line coach Charlie Dickey said. "You have to be strong inside so you can have a good inside running game. And you need to be smart because there's a lot of adjustments on the inside. He handles it real well."

It seems ironic that a person like Smith would have trouble with memory. He has constantly shattered the stereotype that linemen are supposed to be stupid. But he still has to deal with it.

During a review session, a girl was surprised that he knew most of the answers. In one class, the teacher spoke to him real slow, figuring he would have trouble understanding. While writing a paper for an English class during the morning, he accidentally spilled cereal on it and had to turn it in that way. Figuring standards should be lower for him, the teacher rewarded his messy paper with an A. He chuckled that a student who had been a valedictorian of in high school received a C on a neat paper.

"A lot of times people won't be as physically fit and they want to believe you're stupid," Smith said. "They want to believe they're better than you. It's just human nature."

On the field, he needs that intelligence as do all linemen in order to adjust to changes in the defensive front and alterations if Dan White calls an audible.

"If you're not a smart player, you won't last," Smith said. "There's just so many things you have to know. It's not like I write 'left' on my left hand and 'right' on my right hand and go in the direction the ball is snapped. It's a lot more complicated."

After next May, the senior will need just three classes to get his degree. He said the task would be easier had he not played football because he has to sit down to study in the evening after meetings and practice.

"We look at regular students and think they're stupid," Smith said. "We say, 'If you guys can't all get a 4.0 when you guys don't have the same time constraints I do than something is ridiculous with you.' People call us meatheads."

Maybe his nickname gets him a little of that disrespect. A few former players tabbed him with the name Chewbacca, referring to his hairiness resembling Han Solo's wookie sidekick in the Star Wars movies.

While they were in the hotel before a game, one of the Star Wars movies came on television and center Hicham El-Mashtoub told everyone within earshot, "Look, Warner is on TV."

"That kind of helped it stick," Smith said. "I don't know how Chewbacca would play football. It's just kind of funny."

Further riddling is provided courtesy of his friend Joe Smigiel who plays to his right at tackle. As the one who probably recognizes Smith's on-field mistakes and successes the closest, Smigiel admires his work ethic.

"He leads by example," Smigiel said. "Playing next to Warner helps me when we do blocks together. He'll knock them down and I'll finish them off."

Families will fill Arizona Stadium tomorrow and Smith's parents will make the trip from San Manuel to be at the game like every other home game.

"Every weekend is family weekend for me," Smith said. "That was one of the reasons I came here. I wanted all my family to go to the games and share my experience with college football."

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