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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Changing lanes

Photo by Meredith Seaver

After a year at wide receiver, Ainias Smith will shift to running back to fill vacancies at the position.

Everyone on the Texas A&M football roster is a football player, but perhaps no one fits that title more than sophomore running back Ainias Smith.
Jimbo Fisher agrees.
“He’s very natural, and it’s one of the reasons I loved him. My biggest, as I say, love affair with him in recruiting was, people said, ‘Well what is he?’ My description was football player,” Fisher said. “He has a naturalness to the game, whether he’s a running back, whether he’s a receiver, whether he’s a returner, and I felt if he had to be, he could be a heck of a DB. He has a natural instinct to play this game along with a set of physical skills and a toughness and a competitiveness.”
As he has made the switch from wide receiver to running back, Smith has showcased this versatility.
When A&M found itself down to one scholarship running back in mid-December last year, Fisher turned to Smith to pick up the slack. Smith said the move wasn’t a complete surprise as it had been discussed during his recruitment.
“I really wasn’t surprised because coming in and getting recruited, I knew it was a possibility that I was going to get moved, not necessarily moved, but I was going to play a little bit of running back,” Smith said. “That was really the original plan with me coming down to A&M. It was a pretty good adjustment and I’m happy with it. I’m having fun.”
While he knew the move would happen, Smith said he wasn’t expecting it to come when it did.
“[Fisher] approached me about it. It was out of the blue, really,” Smith said. “One day in practice, I was actually doing receiver drills at the beginning of practice and then he called me over to do the running back individual drills. From that day on, I was a running back.”
Smith said the transition involved more than just the on-the-field aspect. He also had to take on a new mentality, one that relied on the toughness Fisher often mentions when he talks about Smith.
“The biggest adjustment for me was basically learning how to be in the trenches every single play,” Smith said. “That really has motivated me basically to encourage everybody on the field to go ahead and step their game up because me being 186, 187 [pounds], coming in every day in practice and I’m going hard in the trenches everyday, I have to make sure that everybody’s on their A-game. I’m not about to come in and let you hit me. That was really the biggest adjustment was me having to become that natural leader that I’m supposed to be.”
Smith’s toughness has been on full display this fall camp, senior linebacker Buddy Johnson said. Johnson recalled one practice in particular where Smith was doing blocking drills across from senior defensive end Micheal Clemons, and the 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore lifted the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Clemons.
“Micheal Clemons is flying in, and he’s picking up Micheal Clemons,” Johnson said. “I’m looking at him like, ‘Okay, yeah, you’re doing what you need to be doing.’”
Smith said the trait is a product of his childhood in the greater Houston area’s Missouri City.
“I’m from Mo City, that’s where it comes from. Little League football, that’s all we knew. You either get hit or you’re making the hit. I don’t want to be the person to get hit, so I’m always delivering,” Smith said.
While this offseason has been anything but typical, Smith said he went back to his roots to prepare for his first full season in his new position.
“[I focused on] everything about who I am — staying low, making sure I get in and out of my breaks, making sure I keep the ball protected,” Smith said. “Becoming a true technician and a real student of the game and understanding what leverages I can take on certain angles.” 
When the SEC allowed players to return to campus for voluntary workouts on June 8, Smith made the decision to remain in Missouri City to train with his dad, who he said is in “crazy shape,” even at 53. 
“He’s in crazy shape. He is probably weighing about 185 at 53, bench pressing 315, repping it easy,” Smith said. “My Pops can get me right all the time.”
Though the SEC lifted its ban on athletic activity early in the summer to provide athletes a safe environment to train in, Smith said he felt safe at home. 
“We had workouts right outside in our front yard. We had ladders, box jumps, all kinds of stuff right there in the street,” Smith said. “I felt comfortable working out with my Pops; I always work out with my Pops.”
In addition to adjusting to his new full-time position, Smith and the team have also faced the challenge of fall camp starting around the same time as classes. 
“With the busy schedule of fall camp and school, it’s been quite an adjustment, but I believe if everybody just locks in and focuses in on what we have to accomplish and not worry about going out or doing unnecessary things, I believe everybody will be able to strive to be successful in the classroom and on the field,” Smith said. 
Smith’s first game at his new position came in A&M’s bowl game win over Oklahoma State in his hometown of Houston. He recorded 54 yards on seven carries in his debut.
Though the Aggies have more depth at running back this year compared to last, Smith will likely be sharing the majority of reps with sophomore Isaiah Spiller. Smith said there are big things ahead for the pair in their second year in Aggieland.
“I believe we’re going to be the best duo that’s in college football, period,” Smith said. “He has natural abilities that a lot of people aren’t able to do, as y’all saw last year. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as a freshman, and he’s just getting started. For me, I was just getting started also.” 
Smith isn’t the only one in his family who has made a transition over the offseason. His older brother Maurice recently signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Ainias said he is excited for his brother’s future.
“Me and Mo, we have a real tight relationship. I’ll ride for him for whatever. He’s been a great influence on me for everything in life. He’s taught me so much, and I thank him for everything that he’s taught me,” Ainias said. “This year, I feel like he’s about to go insane. If nobody knows his name [now], they’re going to know it this year. He’s taught me so much in life, just being humble, staying true to who I am and never playing victim.” 
Though Smith is making the change to running back, he said his time at wide receiver isn’t necessarily over. 
“I feel like I’m natural with the ball in my hands, so I feel like for me, [my best position is] receiver because of the way I can set up a DB and then make a move and get separation. My speed can take over the rest,” Smith said. “Receiver’s the natural position for me, and everything else I feel like I’m good at also. 
“I’m just a football player.”

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