The clouds lifting for Smiley


THERE WERE DOUBTS he would one day be able to even jog down the street, let alone play football. A recruiting trip a year ago had gone horribly wrong, and OL Una Smiley was shot several times. Oregon State signed him anyway in '07, knowing he would need a redshirt year to recover and wouldn't play. They signed him again this year, but the expectation now is he'll be in the Beavs' August fall camp.

Last year,'s Randy Taylor called Smiley (6-6, 280) one of the best JUCO offensive lineman prospects in the '07 class.

"A great looking player, he's what an OL should look like, long arms, very good technique, uses hands well, moves his feet, bends his knees, good quickness," Taylor said. "One of the best offensive linemen in California JC Football talent wise, needs to be more consistent."

SMILEY WAS leaning towards Oregon State in December of '06 when he went on an official visit to New Mexico. He and his three UNM player hosts went to a strip club in Albuquerque and an argument ensued with two other men.

There are differing accounts on what happened next but most agree Smiley and the Lobos were getting into the car when one of the men began shooting.

Police estimate 17 shots were fired at the vehicle.

Some reports say four bullets hit Smiley, some say five. All struck him in the legs below the knee. One bullet broke the fibula in one leg, the other leg sustained significant nerve damage.

It was that nerve damage that left Smiley not knowing if he would ever walk normally again, let alone be able to return to the form that earned him second team JC Grid-Wire All-America honors at Palomar CC. He spent the next several weeks in a wheelchair.

THE INTEREST from most of the schools recruiting him dwindled, wanting to see how his surgery turned out. Later, o-line coach Mike Cavanaugh told Smiley Mike Riley would keep open a scholarship for him last year anyway, and he signed with the Beavs. He then underwent extensive surgery and rehab.

Smiley signed again with Oregon State this past week, and reports are that he has healed up and is ready to get back on the field in '08. It is undecided whether he'll arrive in Corvallis this spring or in the summer as Riley is juggling the scholarship numbers. It would appear a lock, however, he'll be on the field when fall camp opens in August.

Riley has said recently Smiley could earn immediate playing time. He is expected to compete for the left tackle position with Tavita Thompson and Vil Nau.

"(Smiley's) back to full strength, and it's a wonderful story about his recovery," Riley told the Corvallis Gazette Times.

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