BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
There was a different feel about FAU's Football Spring Game on Saturday, April 24 in Boca Raton.
Some familiar faces were missing.
On this day, as current Owls quarterback Jeff Van Camp assumed the starting job, his predecessor was making school history.
In the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Rusty Smith as the 176 selection. Smith, who threw for over 10,000 yards in his FAU career, became the first Owl selected in the NFL Draft. Smith is also the final player to win the MVP of the 2008 Motor City Bowl which changed sponsors last season.
One can only imagine how much higher Smith would have been taken if he hadn't suffered a season ending shoulder injury. But the Titans took the gamble on the Jacksonville native, who now has an opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream.
The 6-4, 231 pound, Smith will have good mentors as the third string quarterback. He'll have a chance to learn from backup Kerry Collins and starter Vince Young.
Young won't have any problems sharing his knowledge with Smith but look for these two to be rooting against each other on November 20 when the Owls face the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas.
What makes Smith's Titans career interesting is that Tennessee acquired the Seattle Seahawks pick which sent former USC running back LenDale White to the Pacific Northwest to rejoin his Trojans college coach Pete Carroll.
When the draft was over, the Titans signed Smith's backfield mate Willie Rose as a free agent. Who knows how many yards Rose will gain or blocks he'll throw. But the Nashville media will love this quote machine if he makes the team.
The Tampa Bay Bucs gave a tryout to former Owls OT/G Lavoris Williams (6-4, 290) while Jason Harmon landed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Even though Lockhart Stadium has much smaller crowds compared to where these student athletes are heading in the much bigger NFL Stadiums, if any of these players perform well at the next level and become hidden gems, the credibility of the Sun Belt Conference for developing prospects will continue to grow.
Whether these players land a spot on a 53-man roster, wind up on the developmental squad or get picked up by another team, two bowl wins in three years plus Howard Schnellenberger's reputation will only build this young FAU program to national levels as recruits realize that there is another option to play major college football other than the powerful Miami Hurricanes.
Smith's selection in the 2010 NFL Draft is a monumental accomplishment.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.