Tigers' Smith earns stripes

After three years of toiling to pay his way at Auburn, receiver Rod Smith heard some good news this week.

During a team meeting, Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville announced the junior walk-on would be on scholarship for the 2007 season.

"It’s definitely good news," said Smith, who is expected to be Auburn’s top receiver. "Coach Tuberville made me stand up and he told everyone I worked hard for it, and it was well deserved."

Smith played sparingly during his freshman season, then broke through last season as a sophomore. During pre-season practice, Smith backed up Courtney Taylor, then moved behind Prechae Rodriguez at flanker.

His work ethic and catching ability propelled Smith past Rodriguez to the top of the depth chart.

Playing in all 13 games, Smith finished as the Tigers’ No. 2 receiver with 26 catches for 452 yards and four touchdowns. Smith had a pair of catches for 85 yards and a score against Mississippi State, three catches for 55 yards against Alabama and four catches each against Arkansas and Ole Miss last season.

"I had hoped to get one for my sophomore year since I was in the starting lineup," Smith said. "But I just had to wait another year. I kept working hard and was awarded it for this year."

Smith said the news of the scholarship was a relief for him and his family, who played a huge role in taking care of him during his first three years. Smith arrived in Fall 2004 after being introduced to Auburn by teammate James Swinton.

He said he could hear his mother, Cassandra Holmes, screaming through the phone.

"She was really excited for me," Smith said. "She’s been hopeful of this for a long time." Smith paid his way for the first three years at Auburn, but said the help he received from his family kept him from needing a summer job.

"I never had to get a job," Smith said. "My family pretty much took care of me. Everything I needed, they gave to me. From the first day I was down here, they supported me. They said if I needed anything, they’d do their best to get it for me."

Smith will be expected to anchor the Tiger receiving corps in 2007 and has bulked up to help that. The 6-foot Smith has added almost 15 pounds in the last three months, he said. He weighed in this week at 192 pounds, up from 178.

"I’ve been working hard, running hard and working on my skills at the pass skellys (7-on-7 drills)," Smith said. "I’m going in this season wanting to be a leader. I’ve got a lot of experience and pretty much know what I’m doing, but one guy can’t do everything. We’ve got to bring those younger guys along."