ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. — Albany State offensive coordinator Steve Smith was hand-picked by former NFL coach Romeo Crennel to coach the offensive line in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game, the longest-running college football all-star game in the country.
Smith, who was an assistant offensive line coach under Crennel at Kansas City from 2012-13 before rejoining the Rams’ coaching staff for his second stint at ASU, called it an honor to coach in the prestigious game.
“It’s a great honor,” Smith said. “There are top-notch players from all over the nation here. There are good players from all of the big-time schools, but there is also a kid from Valdosta State playing in the game. It’s just an honor to be a part of it.”
Smith coached in the all-star game last season and will again be on the West team’s sideline in St. Petersburg, Fla., along with several NFL coaches, including former Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, Chiefs tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee, Chiefs defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant, Chiefs assistant coach Otis Smith, Browns assistant coach Daron Roberts and Jets special teams coach Louie Aguiar. Crennel, the West’s head coach, was hired as the Houston Texans’ defensive coordinator last week.
The game, which will feature more than 100 of the top college players in the nation, will air live at 4 p.m. Saturday on NFL Network.
“Game day will be very fun,” Smith said. “I expect the atmosphere to be the same as it was last year, full of excitement. You can tune in at 4 p.m. on the NFL Network and watch us get it done. We won it last year, and I expect the West to win it this year, too.”
FROM THE GRIDIRON TO THE DIAMOND: Last year it was Albany State star safety Dexter Moody who shed his football helmet for a batting helmet.
This year it will be quarterback Frank Rivers slipping on the baseball mitt.
Moody, who was one of ASU’s top power hitters last season, won’t play this season and is instead focusing on the NFL Draft in May and his projected future as a professional football player, but Rivers will be on the Rams’ baseball team as a pitcher.
Rivers, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who transferred from Division I Grambling State last summer, will be a junior on the diamond. Last year at Grambling he appeared in just seven games and finished with an ERA of 9.00 with 1.2 strikeouts per inning.
ASU baseball coach Kenyan Conner, who is also an assistant coach on the football team, said Rivers is capable of both starting and pitching in relief.
“He throws the ball pretty hard, so I think he will be able to help us out a little bit,” said Conner, who added that Rivers’ best pitch is his fastball. “He will definitely get some innings.”
Rams punter Ryan Latner was a key pitcher for the Rams last season and will return to the baseball field again this season. In 2013, Latner finished with a 2.25 ERA and hit .286 with a pair of RBIs. The ASU baseball team opens its season Feb. 1.
HEADED TO D.C.: ASU head coach Mike White and Moody will both be traveling to Washington D.C. next weekend for the 76th annual Washington Pigskin Club awards banquet.
The banquet honors Washington area high schools and the four major HBCU football conferences: the SIAC, CIAA, MEAC and SWAC. White was named the SIAC’s Coach of the Year, while Moody earned Player of the Year honors.
The awards program, which takes place Jan. 25, is no new destination for White, who has been named the conference’s Coach of the Year six times since taking over the Rams program in 2000. In 2010, the Pigskin Club named Albany State the Black College Football National Champions.