A Star Is Born
Charlie Riedel - AP
Charlie Riedel - AP
Warpaint Illustrated Publisher
Posted Nov 26, 2007

With the absence of running backs Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes, Kansas City had to rely on rookie Kolby Smith Sunday. He didn’t disappoint, running for 150 yards and two touchdowns. With Johnson’s return uncertain this season, the Chiefs might have found another late-round draft gem.

Smith was the one running back who stood out the most in training camp. HBO’s Hard Knocks captured Chiefs running backs coach James Saxon praising Smith, saying he was performing like a veteran. That form was on display Sunday, and Smith showed moves that we haven’t seen since LJ was 100 percent healthy and running behind the league’s best offensive line.

Smith had just a handful of carries the last two weeks but was the focal point of the offense against Oakland. The Chiefs fed him the ball early and often, and he cut through the Raiders as if he’d been doing it for a decade.

It was Kansas City’s best effort in the running game all year. Smith admitted he had butterflies before kickoff as he made his first NFL start.

“Anyone would be nervous in their first NFL start,” said Smith, “especially trying to fill what Priest [Holmes] and Larry Johnson have done for the organization.”

The Chiefs selected Smith in the fifth round because he experienced great success at Louisville last season, replacing running back Michael Bush after the starter suffered a broken leg. Smith piled up over 800 yards and scored seven touchdowns.

The coaching staff worked Smith into the gameplan in recent weeks as he backed up Holmes. He also spent some valuable one-on-one time with the recently retired veteran in the film room, not to mention Saxon.

“Coach Sax always told me to think of yourself as a starter,” said Smith. “They asked me if I was ready for 20 or 25 carries. I was out there just trying to have some fun.”

It wasn’t all fun and games for Smith, however, as he dropped a couple of keys passes, including one that might have gone for a touchdown.

In crunch time with the game on the line, however, the Chiefs showed no hesitation in giving the rookie the ball.

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