As he ran off the field at Spartan Stadium following Michigan
State's 20-10 upset of No. 13 Iowa last Saturday, senior
quarterback Jeff Smoker, who had completed 28 of 44 passes for
218 yards and two touchdowns, paused near midfield to throw a
Frisbee to Zeke the Wonderdog, the aging Labrador who regularly
performs at halftime of Michigan State home games. Smoker twice
threw incompletes to Zeke before sprinting into the tunnel at the
back of the north end zone. "Today might be one of the most fun
times I've had here," he said afterward.
Such a scene seemed improbable last October, when Michigan State
suspended Smoker indefinitely just before the three-year starter
admitted he had a substance abuse problem. Meanwhile, the
Spartans fell apart; third-year coach Bobby Williams was fired
with three games remaining; and Michigan State finished 4-8.
A return this fall wasn't a sure thing for Smoker. New coach John
L. Smith had listed him third on the depth chart in the spring
and didn't name him the starter until 12 days before Michigan
State's season opener.
Smoker has responded by throwing for 1,150 yards and eight
touchdowns in leading No. 25 Michigan State to a 4-1 start.
"There was a time I wasn't sure what I was going to do," says
Smoker. "I love football, but I know I'm not going to be able to
play forever. I was lucky to get a second chance." --Mark Beech