Marcus Smith (Hardaway) figured his quarterbacking days were numbered less than a week after arriving for his first fall camp at Louisville.
"I was throwing a couple of balls in the dirt," Smith recalled Tuesday, a sheepish grin crossing his face.
That's one account. To hear Louisville coaches portray it, high or wide would be no less truthful. To put it mildly, hitting receivers wasn't going to be Smith's strong suit.
Not until later would anyone learn his real talent lay in hitting quarterbacks.
"It just worked out for the best," said Smith, whose 12 ½ sacks this season rank second in the nation and present a prime concern for the University of Miami in Saturday night's Russell Athletic Bowl.
The 6-3 senior's ability to disrupt backfields made him an easy selection as the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year. His name also has been sprinkled through several All-America teams, including first-team honors from the Football Writers Association of America.
"I'm really proud of him," defensive line coach Clint Hurtt told reporters before the Cardinals left for Orlando. "He bought into it, gave it his best effort. He mastered the position."
Said Smith: "When they moved me, that (kind of success) never ran through my head."
In fact, Smith wasn't really sure what to expect when coach Charlie Strong suggested a move to defense. Both men simply understood the quarterback trial wasn't working out.
Smith was a big, mobile quarterback prospect during his high school days in Columbus, Ga. He threw for 14 touchdowns and more than 1,800 yards during his senior season, and there's a YouTube highlight out there of him breaking five tackles before firing a long touchdown pass.
"I used to love watching Vince Young and also Michael Vick," Smith said. "I used to play like both of those guys, but I liked to throw the ball more than I ran."
Smith's accuracy, though, wasn't up to major-college standards. Even he had to admit that after his first few days at Louisville.
"I wasn't looking as good as I did in high school," he said. "Coach (Strong) came up to me -- 'Why don't you come play on my defense?' And I was like, 'Yeah, I probably should play on the defensive side of the ball because I ain't doing too well here right now.' "
Smith thought he might move to safety, where he'd seen some snaps in high school. Strong had other ideas, though, and sent him to practice with the linebackers.
"It was almost like walking blind. I didn't know anything," said Smith, who moved again to defensive end as a sophomore. "The coaches tried to coach me up, but the first couple of years it took me a while to really get what was going on."
He cited Louisville's trip to North Carolina as a sophomore, where three sacks gave fans a glimpse of his potential.
"But in the film room, I was getting yelled at because I wasn't doing the right thing," Smith said. "I just went to get to the ball. In that instance, I knew I could play the position. I just had to get taught how to play it."
The light finally came on between his sophomore and junior seasons, as Smith and Hurtt -- part of the Hurricanes' rise back to national prominence in the late 1990s -- continued to work on Smith's technique.
"We always worked on my footwork," Smith said. "We also did a lot of pass-rush moves -- a lot of stuff with my hands and movement that would help me going into that next season."
Smith led the defensive line with 29 tackles in 2012, including four sacks. That only set the stage for this year's breakout.
"He's so athletic, he can drop into coverage or he can put his hand on the ground and go rush the quarterback," Strong said. "It's been good for him because he's developed, he has a lot of confidence now and he really believes he's a good player."
Those old quarterback days still serve a purpose, too.
"I know quarterback tendencies," he said. "If I'm thinking like a quarterback sometimes, it helps me understand the game more. ... Most of the time I know when it's a bootleg or play-action pass. I can tell quarterback tendencies a lot."
Just something else for Stephen Morris and his UM teammates to think about this week.