Smith lobbies to be Browns’ pick

By Tom Withers The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Usually the one avoiding pressure, Troy Smith is putting the heat on the Cleveland Browns.

Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is lobbying his hometown team to select him in April’s NFL draft, and he is not missing any chance to remind the Browns that he’ll be available to them soon.

Smith was named the area’s outstanding collegiate athlete at Tuesday night’s Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, and during a taped acceptance speech he thanked the city’s fans for their support.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to represent you guys at the next level with the Cleveland Browns,” he said.

Smith hasn’t hidden his desire to play for the Browns, who after finishing 4-12 last season will pick either third or fourth in April’s draft. During a recent halftime ceremony at an Ohio State basketball game, Smith wore a Browns jacket.

Following a tribute for him at Glenville High School in December, Smith said playing for the Browns would fulfill a lifelong goal.

“I have dreamed about it and talked about it countless times with my mother,” he said. “All she talks about is saving the Browns. If that were to happen, that would be a dream come true because I could stay in the community and give back.”

Last year, Texas quarterback Vince Young made a similar plea to Houston, hoping to play for his hometown team. However, the Texans took defensive end Mario Williams with No. 1 overall pick instead. Young ended up going to Tennessee at No. 3 and was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year after leading the Titans to an 8-8 record.

Most draft experts have forecast Smith being taken in the second or third round. The knock on Smith is that he’s not a prototypical pocket passer and that he’s too small – he was listed at 6-foot-1 on Ohio State’s roster and measured 6-foot at last week’s Senior Bowl.

One of his former high school and college teammates believes Smith is being underestimated.

“He should be a first-round pick,” said Buffalo safety Donte Whitner, the No. 8 pick overall last year by the Bills. “I don’t think there is a problem with his height. He has shown what he can do on the field, he’s a winner. He has won the big games, except for the last one. I believe in him.

“They said the same thing about Drew Brees, but he changed the New Orleans Saints organization around this year.”

Smith did not end his college career on a good note as he was roughed up by Florida’s defense in a 41-14 loss in the BCS national championship. However, Browns general manager Phil Savage said Smith’s performance shouldn’t hurt his draft status.

“One game doesn’t make a career,” he said. “It was unfortunate the way it unfolded. That is the only sport that I know of where they take 50 days off and then play the championship. Troy had a terrific career at Ohio State, he won the Heisman Trophy, he’s from Cleveland and well see how the draft unfolds in all of that.”

The Browns seem committed to starting either Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson at quarterback next season, so if they pick a QB, it probably won’t be until the later rounds of the two-day draft on April 28-29.

Frye said he isn’t concerned about the possibility of the Browns bringing in another quarterback.

“If you’re worried about that, you’re worrying about the wrong things,” he said.

Smith is not the only Cleveland native dreaming of playing for the home-town Browns.

Wide receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr., Smith’s teammate at Glenville and Ohio State, is skipping his senior college season for the NFL. He, too, said he would like to trade a silver helmet for an orange one on draft day.

“It’s always been a dream to play for the Browns,” he said. “Why would I want to go anywhere else but Cleveland?”

Ginn still is wearing a protective walking boot after spraining his left foot in the BCS title game. Ginn said his injury, which happened during a celebration after he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, is getting better and that he’ll work out for pro scouts once it’s 100 percent.

He said watching from the sideline on crutches during the Gators’ thrashing of the top-ranked Buckeyes was difficult.

“Oh, man, it was very tough to see my team go down like that and not be able to help them at all,” he said.