News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

AU awards Rod Smith a scholarship

AUBURN (AP) — Rod Smith can shelve those student loan applications this year.

The Auburn receiver was awarded a scholarship by coach Tommy Tuberville during a team meeting Tuesday, a big moment for a player who has gone from walk-on to starter.

Tuberville had Smith stand during the meeting, then praised his leadership and announced that the junior had earned a scholarship.

"It caught me off guard. I had no idea he was going to do this for me at all," Smith said. "I think I'll appreciate this more than anyone. From the first day, I worked hard for these coaches. I'm just thankful that the coaches gave me a chance."

Smith was Auburn's No. 2 receiver last season, with 26 catches for 452 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. With Courtney Taylor's departure, he could play an even bigger role in the Tigers' offense this season.

He's expected to open the season as Auburn's top wide receiver in a position thin on experience.

Prechae Rodriguez (14 catches) also returns, but no other wideout had more than six receptions last season.

Smith, from Snellville, Ga., landed at Auburn after accompanying best friend and now fellow Auburn receiver James Swinton on a recruiting trip. They attended the Tennessee game together in 2003.

"I didn't know anything about Auburn," Smith said. "I just went because (Swinton) was going."

He liked the campus enough to decline football scholarships at two small colleges and pay his own way to Auburn. Smith no longer needs to dread this time of year, when he has to apply for more student loans.

"Most walk-ons don't get these kinds of opportunities. They usually just play special teams," Smith said. "I think it's my work ethic. I had faith in what I was doing. I never had a doubt in my mind that I could do this. I knew I could play at this level."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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