Chiefs' tackle Shaun Smith a 325-pound RB
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)
Say hello to Deep Freeze.
Yes, it's a takeoff on Refrigerator Perry. But it's better than what they used to call Shaun Smith.
The monicker seems natural since the veteran defensive tackle's 325 pounds crashed into the Seattle defensive line for a 1-yard touchdown run last week, adding a big and menacing new weapon to Kansas City's rushing attack that was already No. 1 in the NFL.
''I like that nickname, Deep Freeze. It's cool,'' said Smith, a six-year defensive end who's made a much bigger splash that anyone expected when he signed in March as a free agent.
Last September, the league fined Smith $10,000 for grabbing San Francisco offensive lineman Anthony Davis in the groin area. That earned him some not-so-nice nicknames.
A week earlier, Cleveland center Alex Mack had accused him of the same infraction, which Smith vigorously denied, insisting, ''I am not a dirty player.''
Since then, no one has accused him of hitting below the belt. So Smith is ready to embark on a new and more respectable phase of his career - the 21st-century reincarnation of William Perry, the hulking lineman who became an NFL sensation as a short-yardage offensive specialist for the Super Bowl champion 1985 Bears.
''I hope I can continue to get the ball,'' Smith said. ''We'll see what happens.''
Scoring touchdowns is not exactly new to Smith. In high school in Wichita, he says, he was a 280-pound tailback who loved reeling off long runs.
''I scored a lot in high school,'' he said. ''The longest scoring run I had was probably about 64 yards against Wichita Southeast. I used to have a lot of big runs. I was a big back but I was quick. I still consider myself one of the best big men in the league, with good feet.''
Good feet are an absolute must before any lineman gets to carry the ball, no matter how big and strong he might be. Experience carrying the ball is also good. Although the Chiefs had been practicing the play for weeks, coach Todd Haley still felt his heart jump into his throat when Smith rumbled onto the field with the Chiefs holding a 14-7 lead.
''You hear some mentors of the past telling you, `Let the throwers throw, the runners run and the catchers catch,''' Haley said with a grin.
But Smith took a clean handoff from Matt Cassel, got hit, kept his feet moving and plowed into the end zone for the touchdown in a game the Chiefs went on to win 42-24.
''As you get to know your players and what they're capable of, you see the trust build,'' said Haley. ''It was something we practiced for multiple weeks. We thought it was time to give it a roll. And I think Shaun did a really good job.''
Growing up, Smith's idol was former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. But he's always been a defensive lineman in the NFL.
''The play worked. I hope we can continue to have success with it,'' Smith said. ''I got in with second effort. The biggest thing was to stay low and keep my feet moving. I felt somebody hit me. Then somebody else came.''
Smith broke into a wide grin.
''The second person who hit me fell off. It was a good feeling.''
Of course, even if he goes in as just a blocking back, Smith will give defenses plenty to think about, perhaps open up plays on the perimeter or pass-action trickery.
He would especially get the attention of little guys like Kendrick Lewis, the Chiefs' rookie safety who admits he's never tried to tackle anyone as big as Deep Freeze.
''I know what (part of Smith) I'm going for when I do try,'' he said.
''Shoelaces,'' Lewis said. ''You ain't about to get your arms around that big body, I'll tell you that.''