Arguably the highest honor of Marcus Smith’s time at Louisville came with just one game remaining in his career.
The former Hardaway standout was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday. The senior defensive end highlighted the Cardinals’ 11 all-conference selections, tying league champion Central Florida for most in the AAC.
Smith led the league in total sacks (10.5) in conference play as well as sacks per game (1.31). He ranks seventh on Louisville’s single-season sack list, needing just one-half more to tie for fifth-most in a year.
For the season, he has 12.5 sacks overall, which ranks second in the nation, trailing only Stanford’s Trent Murphy, who has 14 quarterback takedowns.
In addition to his sack numbers, Smith is also second in the AAC in tackles for loss (11.5).
With his honor on Wednesday, he became the first Cardinal to win a defensive player of the year award since fellow end Elvis Dumervil did the same in 2005, when Louisville was still a member of the Big East Conference.
The coach Smith works with on a daily basis couldn’t have been more thrilled.
“I’m extremely proud of him for accomplishing another of the many goals he has set for himself,” defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said. “This is just the start to a great career for a great player and even better person.”
Few players have likely had to move around as much as Smith has during his four years with the Cardinals. Arriving on campus as a quarterback in 201-, he immediately made the switch to linebacker. Midway through the same season, he moved again — this time to defensive end — where he has remained ever since.
And it has paid dividends for both team and player.
Smith will end among the Louisville’s top-10 pass rushers of all-time, as his 22.5 career sacks rank eighth on the school’s all-time list.