By Matthew Girard
Killeen Daily Herald
Through the years, Shoemaker coach Ken Gray has had numerous talented football players come through his system.
Since taking over the Grey Wolves head coaching position in 2000 Gray has had four players get to NCAA Division I schools and several others move on to play at the next level for smaller schools, but Gray said his current quarterback, Andre Smith, is maybe one of the best to ever play at Shoemaker.
"He's one of the best we've ever had to come through here at Shoemaker High School," said Gray, who has coached the likes of Texas' Roy Miller, Purdue's Keith Smith, Texas A&M's Brandon Joiner and Colorado State's Eugene Daniels. "We've had great players and through the years I've coached great players, but he is also a great person. You won't find anybody at this school that knows Andre who will say anything negative about him. He's always upbeat and always positive."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound and soft-spoken Smith was humble and appreciative when he heard what Gray had said about his place in Grey Wolves football history.
"It's definitely a confidence booster," said Smith, a senior who took over for Keith Smith as the starting quarterback last year as a junior.
Although Smith said he originally got some static for being too quiet on the field, Gray said the senior has been a leader since his freshman year.
"Throughout his career here, he's been a leader from the get-go," Gray said. "As a freshman, we knew he was going to be something special and he turned out to be."
Although Shoemaker is 2-5 overall and 1-2 in District 13-5A play, Smith has given the Grey Wolves a chance to win with first his arm and then his legs. After passing for 835 yards and seven touchdowns, and rushing for 235 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, Smith already has passed for more than 1,000 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 548 yards and eight touchdowns through the first seven games. Smith has also accounted for 65 percent of Shoemaker's offense this season.
Gray said Smith, who is fielding offers from Tulsa, Oklahoma State and Idaho, among others, has been the reason the Grey Wolves are eyeing their first-ever playoff appearance.
"He's our offensive leader and the leader of our team," Gray said. "We go as far as Andre goes."
Smith said his leadership style is simple.
"I like to lead by example," said Smith, who is listed as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com.
Despite some comparing him to his predecessor, Gray said Smith is a completely different quarterback.
"In his first years we had a quarterback named Keith Smith and everybody compared him (Andre) to Keith, but they are two totally different types of quarterbacks," Gray said. "Andre is a passer who can run the ball and is a strong runner, but I think his biggest asset is his vision. If he gets flushed out of the pocket he is still looking down the field."
Smith said the reason he has been successful is because he has taken different aspects of his game from several quarterbacks, including Keith Smith.
"I would say watching film and then seeing what those quarterbacks do on Saturdays," Smith said. "I see how they do things and I take a little bit from each one. I watch Vince Young's style and I watch Kentucky's Andre Woodson."
In the upcoming weeks, several schools will make the trip to Killeen to see Smith in action, but Tulsa is his number one at the moment.
"It makes me work harder," said Smith when asked about different schools coming to look at him. "It makes you feel good when someone out there wants you."
Even though Smith has a bright future somewhere, he said his main focus is getting the Grey Wolves to the postseason.
"It would be like winning a state championship," Smith said about leading his team to the playoffs. "I made it to the playoffs as a sophomore in basketball and that was an amazing experience. It meant a lot that I was the first quarterback to beat Heights and it would be great if I was the first quarterback that leads us to the playoffs."
Gray said he has no doubt Smith and the Grey Wolves will be playing past the regular season.
"That's what his focus has been all along," Gray said. "Even when we've fallen short this year you can tell how much its hurt him, and that next week he brings more passion and more intensity to practice because he wants to get there.
"If I was a betting man, I would say he's going to lead us there. He's just the type of kid that makes the people around him better and I have no doubt we'll get there."
Contact Matthew Girard at email@example.com or (254) 501-7569.