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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - He was bent on transforming this first-round playoff game into his own personal night of atonement. Eric Smith's eyes told the story.
They were watery.
Before Armwood's 225-pound junior tailback helped run the ball down Hillsborough's collective throat Friday night, he felt a lump run down his own.
"I felt this personally," Smith said following the Hawks' 32-7 rout. "When I first came out ... tears came to my eyes, and everybody on the team saw it."
Eleven weeks before against the same Terriers team, Smith was driven to the ground on a cutback run, suffering a partial fracture and torn ligaments in his left elbow. When he rose the next morning, his left arm was swollen to the wrist.
On Friday night, the only thing swollen was his intensity. In lieu of sleeves, Smith wore his emotions on the Ace bandage wrapped around his elbow while helping his top-ranked team ruthlessly pound the ball like few have against Earl Garcia's squad.
In his third game since returning from what initially was feared to be a season-ending injury, Smith ran for 84 of Armwood's 242 yards. He also made a 19-yard catch using only his right hand and unleashed a one-man symphony of smacks and thuds with his blocks.
"He's a horse, and he's not even in shape yet," Hawks coach Sean Callahan said.
"Oh my goodness," Hawks offensive coordinator Chris Taylor said. "Did you see the times when he didn't get the ball? He just blew the linebacker out."
Who knew the planets could align in Armwood's triple-option formation? At the season's outset, few could've figured Armwood (10-1) would see Hillsborough (6-5) in the playoffs, much less see Smith play a prominent role in the rematch.
After the injury, the Hawks' top rusher in 2005 had zero range of motion in the elbow. He was so distraught that he blew off an invitation from Miami coaches to the attend the FSU-UM game on Labor Day.
But as time passed, he was given an optimistic prognosis: He might play again in 2006.
His confidence seemed to accumulate with his grass stains Friday night. After every carry, Smith popped up and pointed at his elbow.
"I was trying to show that I won't never let an injury hold me down," he said. "I won't let nothing hold me back now."