FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The nicknames started to fly as soon as Brad Smith’s left shoe popped off.
Shoeless Brad Smith. One-Shoe Smith. Slash. Mr. Do-It-All.
Sione Pouha has one he thinks says it best.
“Superman,” the New York Jets defensive tackle said with a laugh. “I just call him Superman. The guy’s amazing.”
Smith became the third wide receiver since 1950, and first since Billy “White Shoes” Johnson in 1977, to score on both a run and a return — even after one shoe fell off — last Thursday night in the Jets’ 26-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Not bad for a guy who was a record-breaking quarterback at the University of Missouri.
“I just try to focus on my job,” Smith said. “I focus on what I have to do and what the play calls for at any given time.”
Yawn. As exciting as he is on the field, Smith is even more low key and unassuming off it.
“You’d think a guy like him would be a little more cocky and a little more arrogant,” linebacker Vernon Gholston said. “Not Brad. Pretty much, whatever you ask him to do, he does.”
The AFC special teams player of the week had a 53-yard touchdown run on an end-around reverse last week and scored on an 89-yard kickoff return, scampering the last 45 yards with only one shoe, to spark the Jets in the second half.
“He looked faster with the one shoe than he did two shoes,” coach Rex Ryan quipped, “so we’re going to look at that.”
Smith has his team believing he can do anything, mostly because he has in his four-plus seasons with New York. According to the Jets, he’s the only player in the modern era — since 1933 — to have scored during a career in each of the following ways: receiving (two), rushing (two), kickoff return (two), blocked punt return (one) and thrown a touchdown pass (one).
“He’s a very explosive player,” fullback John Conner said. “I think a lot of teams are going to be looking out for him and studying our game tape.”
That’s for sure, starting with New England. The AFC East rivals play for the division lead Monday night at Foxborough.
Against Cincinnati, Smith also joined Dominic Rhodes (2001) and Brian Mitchell (2000) as the only players in NFL history to score on a kickoff return of 80-plus yards and a run of 50-plus yards in the same game.
“He does everything short of play defense,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “And he probably could do that, too.”
Smith was converted from quarterback to wide receiver when he came to New York as a fourth-round draft pick in 2006. He has been a valuable and versatile part of the Jets’ offense and special teams unit, a threat to score whenever he has the football in his hands.
\“Brad’s a great all-around athlete,” Gholston said. “You know, taking snaps out of the wildcat, wide receiver, quarterback, special teams and running down making tackles. When you can do all those things for a team, it makes his value soar. He’s probably one of the most important guys on the team, to be honest.”