To say Kevin Smith made the most out of his opportunity at UCF was an understatement. A 6-foot running back from Miami, Smith enjoyed a historic season in Orlando and later had a five-year NFL career.
Although Kevin Smith only made $2 million in the NFL, he’s quickly rising the ranks as a high-profile college football coach and teacher. Here’s why his story is worth following.
Kevin Smith was a record-setting running back at UCF
It wouldn’t be fair to call Kevin Smith a one-year wonder at UCF. That one season, though, ranks among the best rushing seasons in recent college football history.
Smith totaled 2,567 yards and 29 touchdowns on a staggering 450 carries for the 2007 UCF Knights. His 29 touchdowns set a single-season Conference USA record and are still tied for sixth all-time.
Only Barry Sanders‘ 2,268 rushing yards in 1988 were higher than the 2,500+ Smith recorded. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon narrowly passed Smith for the second-most in a single season in 2014, when Gordon ended his final year at Wisconsin with 2,587 yards.
Kevin Smith finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt famously apologized to Smith during a segment because the national media didn’t cover Smith’s season the way it should have.
Smith earned $2 million from the Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions were so impressed with Kevin Smith’s junior season that they used a third-round pick on him in 2008. Smith signed a three-year, $1.79 million rookie contract.
Kevin Smith ran for 976 yards and eight touchdowns on 4.1 yards per carry as a rookie. His successful NFL entrance went under the radar because the Lions went 0-16.
Although Smith’s yards per carry dropped to 3.4 in 2009, he already had nearly 1,200 yards from scrimmage when he missed the final three games with an injury.
Smith only played six games in 2010 and didn’t receive a new contract.
The Lions brought Kevin Smith back in 2011 and he scored seven all-purpose touchdowns in seven games. Smith averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2012 and didn’t play again after that.
Kevin Smith is a high-profile running backs coach and mentor
Kevin Smith retired after the 2012 season with over $2 million in career earnings, according to Over The Cap. Injuries and the 2011 NFL lockout contributed to Smith’s career ending as early as it did.
An early end to Kevin Smith’s professional football career, though, allowed him to enter the coaching ranks early. Smith served as an assistant at UCF before Lane Kiffin named him Florida Atlantic’s running backs coach in 2017.
Kevin Smith had an instant impact on FAU’s running backs, most notably Devin “Motor” Singletary. Singletary totaled 32 rushing touchdowns in 2017 — he fittingly broke Smith’s Conference USA single-season record — and nearly joined the 2,000-yard club.
Singletary ran for another 22 scores in 2018 and declared early for the NFL Draft. Buffalo used a third-round pick on Singletary last year and he averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
Singletary’s college teammate, Kerrith Whyte, averaged 5.1 yards per attempt in six games for the Steelers. Chicago drafted Whyte in the seventh-round last year.
Another FAU running back, Buddy Howell, spent the last two years on the Houston Texans‘ special teams. Smith made $115,000 as FAU’s running backs coach in 2018, according to public records.
Lane Kiffin brought Kevin Smith to Ole Miss in December 2019. Smith’s Ole Miss salary has not yet been released.