September 2019

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32 W hen University of Iowa football coaches approached LeRoy Smith to move from offense to defense, Smith knew the time was right. Smith was recruited out of Sicklerville, New Jersey, as a top-100 running back and several schools wanted him to be a collegiate defensive back. His National Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame resume was filled with exploits as a defensive end. "When the coaches put me on defense, I never had any hesitation," said Smith. "I knew it was the right move, but it would take time to become a good player. I had coach (Bill) Brashier, coach (Bernie) Wyatt, coach (Milan) Vooletich, and coach (Hayden) Fry in my corner, so I always felt comfortable. "I had to learn the defense and become a student of the game." Smith redshirted during his first season before getting injured and playing sparingly in 1988. When he returned from the Peach Bowl and saw the Hawkeyes' running back depth chart, he saw the writing on the wall. "We had good running backs on our team -- Nick Bell, Tony Stewart, Marvin Lampkin, Lew Montgomery," said Smith. "It seemed like a better fit for me to play defense, especially since I was a linebacker in high school. "When the coaches approached me it was a no- brainer. I just wanted to play. I didn't care what position. I could have been the water boy as long as I got on the field." Smith relied on his experience, while Wyatt worked with him on technique and leverage. "It went pretty smooth, but I had so much to learn," he said. "Offense is more generated to thinking, defense is more reacting. I felt more comfortable reacting." Smith played all 13 games during his first season as a defensive end. He started the final two games, which included a 10-tackle (four tackles for loss) effort against Minnesota. He finished the year with 45 stops, including seven tackles for loss and two sacks. In 1990, Smith became a leader on a team that claimed a Big Ten championship to earn a berth in the Rose Bowl. He led all defensive linemen with 78 tackles, including 55 solo stops, four tackles for loss, and two sacks. e Hawkeyes opened the season with seven wins in their first eight games before losing 27-26 to Ohio State in Kinnick Stadium. Iowa won the league title via a tiebreaker aer finishing with a 6-2 Big Ten record. "We had great leaders on that 1990 team -- Merton Hanks, Melvin Foster, John Derby, Eddie Polly, Matt Rogers, Danan Hughes, Tony Stewart, Mike Saunders, Mike Devlin, and Mike Ferroni," said Smith. "We had so many people who wanted to win and believed we could win. "at makes a big difference. We were one team and no matter what we could win." LEROY SMITH

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