Nation-Best Seven Picks Not Enough For D'Joun Smith
By Peter Burke
When D'Joun Smith sets a goal for himself, he sets the bar high.
So imagine the disappointment that the Florida Atlantic University cornerback must have had when he checked the stat sheet and saw that he wasn't even halfway there during the team's second bye week of the season.
"A lot of people laugh at them, but I've set unrealistic goals every year," Smith told Football.com in a phone interview. "When it comes to interceptions, I feel like I should have 100 interceptions this year. I should have more than 100 pass breakups this year. I set my goals real high — real, real high, ridiculously high — and try to get as close as I can to them. I don't try to set goals that can be accomplished."
Smith leads the Owls with seven interceptions and 10 pass deflections. For the junior from Miami, those numbers must seem paltry. But for FAU coaches and fans, he's exceeding expectations.
Three of those picks came in FAU's homecoming win against Tulane on Nov. 2. The Owls rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to shut out the Green Wave in the second half en route to a 34-17 victory. It was the first game under interim head coach Brian Wright, who replaced Carl Pelini after his abrupt resignation three days earlier.
Smith's trio of interceptions not only tied a school record, but it also gave him the national lead in picks on the season. He currently is tied for the lead with Virginia safety Anthony Harris.
Earlier this season, Smith became the first FAU player to receive weekly honors by Conference USA and the presenters of the Jim Thorpe Award for his stellar performance against South Florida, when he forced a fumble, recorded a tackle for loss, broke up a pass and returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown in a 28-10 victory.
Smith remains a candidate for C-USA Defensive Player of the Year.
"It's a great feeling," Smith said of being recognized for his on-field performance this season, although he was quick to deflect the attention to his teammates.
Perhaps a glaring oversight is his absence on the list of semifinalists for the Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in the nation.
Still, Smith remains humble and credits his faith and family for his success.
"That's the No. 1 thing," Smith said.
With three games remaining, Smith will need to average 31 interceptions to meet his "unrealistic" goal. But that won't stop him from trying.
"When that opportunity is given to you, you just capitalize on it," he said.