Smith Gives Bucs Added Dimension In Opener
Rookie tight end Alex Smith stumped the Tampa Bay public relations staff. They couldn't remember another Bucs rookie scoring two touchdowns in his NFL debut. Veteran Bucs tight end Dave Moore was even more impressed. "Forget the first game," Moore said, "I haven't done that in 14 years."

Smith's rookie debut, featuring four receptions for 34 yards and two touchdowns, earned high praise from his coach. Jon Gruden sought out the tight end in the locker room after the game to congratulate him. "I thought he did some good things," Gruden said. "He's going to help our team and he gives us a dimension that we need here."

Tampa Bay took Smith in the third round of April's draft with visions of using his speed to stretch defenses and create mismatches, which is exactly what happened on his first touchdown. On the first score, a 23-yard reception from Brian Griese on the first play of the second quarter, Smith beat Minnesota linebacker Rod Davis, who was in for an injured Sam Cowart. "The first one was just a vertical seam down the middle and I was one-on-one with the linebacker," Smith said. "We always like that matchup and Griese threw a great ball and before I knew it, I was in the end zone."

The second touchdown, off a play-action pass with Smith trying to sell the run from the 2-yard line, nearly didn't happen. "I stumbled and almost fell," Smith said. "I almost fell to the ground, but I was able to keep myself up and Griese kept it alive and found me in the back of the end zone."

Unlike rookie Cadillac Williams, who threw his first touchdown ball into the stands to a Vikings fan, Smith has plans for his mementos. "I'll probably keep the jersey and put everything up," Smith said. "It was my first game, my first game in the NFL, so those footballs will go up on the mantel somewhere."

As one of the last Bucs players to leave the field Sunday, Smith threw one of his gloves to a waiting Tampa Bay fan and then let another one rip the other glove off his hand. After slapping a few palms, Smith jumped up to give a fan a high-five before finally exiting the Metrodome field. "I was just trying to savor the moment," he said. "This is what my life is now. It was a great welcoming and a great start. I just have to continue to build off of this."

Katherine Smith, The Tampa Tribune 12 September 2005