Cameron Smith doesn't say a lot. Arizona State head coach Todd Graham characterized him as, "a man of few words." So what did Graham, a type-A personality who sometimes can't get the words out of his mouth fast enough, do to motivate Smith before the game with Washington State?
"I gave him a little fist bump and asked for a touchdown."
That was clearly enough for him as he went out and hauled in six catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against the Cougars.
No more than 30 minutes before Arizona State (9-2,6-2 Pac-12) took the field against Washington State (3-8, 2-6 Pac-12) Smith, a sophomore, found out that junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong wouldn't take the field because of persistent symptoms from a concussion he suffered against Oregon State a week prior.
He was faced with the task of replacing not only the Sun Devils' top wide receiver and quarterback Taylor Kelly's favorite target, but also a future first round pick in the NFL Draft. For Smith, a very reserved person off the field, he would take the stage in front of more than 50,000 people on Saturday when the maroon and gold needed him most. In his moment, he didn't just fill Strong's shoes, he exceeded expectations.
"Cam is a tremendous athlete, he's one of those guys who's always going to be early to practice, early to treatment, and just keeps chopping at the wood," Kelly said. "He has been waiting for his time and he got that opportunity and took advantage of it."
Nobody on the Arizona State football team has to prepare more than Smith. A member of Barrett, The Honors College, Smith has to balance his heavier school work load with his participation on the football team. He studies a tremendous amount on the road and rarely speaks with the media.
"I'm really proud of him," Graham said. "That's a challenging thing to do to be in Barret's Honors College and be a football player at this level."
One of those touchdowns was a 42-yard reception, Smith also caught a 67-yard bomb from Kelly, his longest connection of the season. It's the first time Smith had over 100 yards receiving in his career and his two touchdowns were also a career high. The Coppell, Texas native stands just 5-foot-9 but like most things and people in that state, played a lot bigger Saturday. He showed that he's a more than capable replacement for Strong's big-play ability once he leaves for the NFL. Smith's speed makes him a tremendous threat to burn corners on deep balls.
"Jaelen is a great asset for us," Kelly said. "We just had a few drops early on and misplaced balls. Cam Smith had one of his best practices all season, he came prepared and he came after it today."