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Courtesy: UGA Sports Communications
Release: 08/20/2007
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A little over two weeks after his final game as a Georgia Bulldog, the mayors of Savannah and Garden City, Ga., issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 17, 1972, as "Royce Smith Day" in his hometown community of Chatham County on Georgia's coast.

His success story actually began eight years earlier, as a ninth grader at Groves High School in Garden City, Ga., on the outskirts of Savannah. He decided to take the advice of Groves football coach Jack Miller--give up basketball, get into a weight-lifting program and concentrate on football.

Smith began lifting weights three hours a day and to stay in shape for football, he also went out for track. Playing tight end initially, Smith made a name for himself and after his junior season, University of Georgia assistant coach John Donaldson expressed interest in the youngster.

Smith doubted he could play college football. But Miller told him he could do it if he worked for it. Smith took him at his word and worked hard in the weight room during his senior season. Despite the fact that few schools showed interest, Georgia coach Vince Dooley and Donaldson still liked the way he played football and signed him to be a Bulldog.

He arrived in Athens weighing 190 pounds and the Georgia coaches quickly determined his best chance for playing would be at offensive guard. He re-committed himself to the weight room and rose to 6-3, 250 pounds but could still run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds--the fastest for a Georgia lineman. And he could bench press a then-Georgia record 430 pounds.

His play on the field produced an All-America career as an offensive guard which ended in 1971 with an 11-1 record and Gator Bowl victory over North Carolina. His senior season was highlighted by selection to 12 All-America first teams. He was also named a consensus All-Southeastern Conference player, earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl post-season all-star game, was selected as the winner of the Jacobs Blocking Award as the SEC's outstanding blocker, and was elected by his teammates as the 1971 Bulldog team captain--all in the span of a month!

It all paved the way for his selection a few months later in the first round of the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints where he would play before closing his career with the Atlanta Falcons. In 1995, he was inducted into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Smith passed away unexpectedly in January, 2004, at the age of 54.

On that Royce Smith Day in Savannah and Garden City back in 1972, a poem written by David C. Barrow, Jr., was presented at the banquet. The final two verses read:

Savannah's proud of this young man,
We honor here tonight,
Who's famous now from Rabun Gap,
Right down to Tybee Light.

“In years to come when he looks back,
And thinks about this day,
Royce will know we honored him,
Because he led the way.”