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it became my dream.A long time ago Bobby to

  • December 9, 2017 11:50 PM GMT

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback Luke Del Rio had a chance to attend his first Florida-Georgia game last season. He had tickets. Decent seats, too. He even made the hour-and-a-half trip from Gainesville to Jacksonville to tailgate beforehand.But as kickoff approached, Del Rio headed to a friends house to catch the action.To be honest, Id rather be on the field or watch it on TV, Del Rio said Monday.On Saturday, he wont have a choice. Del Rio will return to Jacksonville, where he spent a big chunk of his formative years, and take center stage in one of the Southeastern Conferences most storied rivalries.No. 14 Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC) has won two in a row and 20 of the last 26 in the series against Georgia (4-3, 2-3). But this will be Del Rios first even though he spent nearly a decade hanging out with NFL players in and around the stadium.Yeah, yeah, a lot of very good memories, he said. Growing up there for eight-and-a-half, nine years, being able to play with my dad and watch his team compete on that field is really special. We still have a game to win, but it will be fun to be back there.He also has a chance to give the Del Rio family as many wins at the Jaguars EverBank Field in two weeks as the hometown team has there in the past 12 months. Luke Del Rios father, Jack, celebrated a 33-16 victory at Jacksonville on Sunday. It was his first game there since the franchise fired him with five games remaining in the 2011 season.Now, its the younger Del Rios homecoming turn.Hopefully, the Del Rio family can go 2-0, you know, back-to-back weeks, he said. Its kind of interesting the way it worked out.Del Rio struggled in his return from a sprained left knee against Missouri on Oct. 15. He completed 18 of 38 passes for 236 yards, with a touchdown and three interceptions.He looked rusty, but then again, it was only his fifth collegiate start.Yeah, Im learning a lot every game, good or bad, just having fun out there, he said. I kind of have to pinch myself sometimes because I remember in high school I would just pray in bed, `Just let me play football at some level in college, and Im the starting quarterback for the Florida Gators. So Im tremendous, tremendously blessed and thankful that Im in this opportunity and this situation.Del Rio spent most of high school in the Jacksonville area. And much of his spare time, especially during summers and on Sundays, was spent around the Jaguars.Luke and Jack played catch often on the practice field, and the elder Del Rio even has a picture of them sharing a moment after the Jaguars beat Denver -- along with then-backup quarterback and former Florida star Tim Tebow -- in the 2010 season opener in Jacksonville.That was one of the special moments in my coaching career just being able to have my son there, had a big hug and embraced after the game and just a good moment, Jack Del Rio recalled last week.With the Raiders staying in Florida to train before playing at Tampa Bay on Sunday, Del Rio plans to return to Jacksonville for his sons first Florida-Georgia game.Yeah, its really awesome the whole deal with Luke, the coach said. I think hes fought hard to keep his dream alive of playing big-time football. ... Im just glad to see him with such good people in a place where he feels comfortable.No doubt, Luke Del Rio feels comfortable in Jacksonville. He rattled off a number of former Jaguars who befriended him over the years, including star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and popular place-kicker Josh Scobee.But it wasnt always perfect. Jones-Drew used to skunk him in table tennis in the locker room, and Scobee once one-hopped a football into his eye while they were playing catch inside the stadium.I was like 8, my hands were late getting to the ball and the ball met my eye before my hands met the ball, Del Rio said. Black eye. My dad was like, `What happened to you? and I was like, `Ah, ran into a door or something like that because Scobee was a rookie, so he was like, `Dont tell your dad! Dont tell your dad! Ill get cut! But yeah, fun times.---AP college football website: Replica Cote dIvoire Jerseys . 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The game was meaningless, an exhibition against the College of Idaho, but Bobby Smith wasnt about to miss it. He hadnt seen his son play basketball in two years -- it had been two years since anyone had seen Ray Smith in a game.Stymied by two ACL tears, one in each knee, Ray missed his final season of high school ball and what should have been his first year at Arizona. Healthy and cleared, hed finally don his No. 24 jersey on Nov. 1 and show off the skills that made him a five-star prospect.Bobby took his seat in the McKale Center. He wasnt nervous. He was petrified, more on pins and needles than excited as Ray entered the game for the first time early in the first half. He watched his sons every step and every cut and, try as he might, couldnt dismiss a nagging in the back of his brain that his son just didnt look right. Maybe Ray was nervous, Bobby thought, not really trusting his knee.Finally, Ray drained two free throws, and Bobby relaxed a little bit. When he saw his boy hit a jumper with six minutes gone in the second half, he exhaled.Two minutes later, at the 12:52 mark, Ray drove to the basket for a layup. He missed the shot and came down awkwardly, immediately signaling for Justin Kokoskie, the teams athletic trainer, making a slashing motion across his neck.That nagging fear exploded into all-out panic and Bobby ran on the court, following Ray into the Arizona locker room.Two days later, an MRI would reveal the official diagnosis. Ray Smith didnt need a test or even a doctor. The 19-year-old had heard the pop and felt the all-too-familiar searing pain. He knew. For the third time in 27 months, hed torn his ACL.Its over, he said to Kokoskie and his dad. Im done with basketball. Ive done everything I could. Some things just arent meant to be.Later Ray would post a heartfelt tweet, thanking Arizona coach Sean Miller, his teammates, the medical staff, and Kokoskie for their hard work, formally announcing his retirement from the game.BASKETBALL youve been GREAT, he wrote. But the 6-8 long athletic wing that can play multiple positions is out *DROPS THE MIC.*Just like that, at 19, he retired from the game.Except thats not really the case. We havent heard the last from Ray Smith.Not by a long shot.WHEN HE CALLED TO ASK HIS DAD about staying with him, Ray was failing -- not just one subject, but pretty much every one, his transcript in such disarray that his ninth grade year might as well have been a wash.His parents had long ago divorced, and since Bobby was in the military for years, Ray lived with his mother. Hed asked to move in with his dad before, but it was more the work of an immature kid playing one parent off the other. This time Ray insisted he meant it. So Bobby offered the ground rules -- a serious commitment to staying with him full time, no matter the structure; attention to grades; and obeying the rules of his house.Ray agreed, and after a court battle -- his mother fought surrendering custodial rights -- moved in with Bobby, who had since remarried. A few months later, Bobby woke up late at night to find Ray, fully dressed, trying to sneak out of the house.That night we had a talk, a real man-to-man conversation, Bobby said. And that was literally the only issue we had. He got his grades straight and his mind right.Ray Smith also got his basketball in gear. After his sophomore year, when he averaged a respectable 10.8 points and 3.5 boards per game at Las Vegas High School, Smith blossomed into a star, averaging 24.7 points and 6 rebounds as a junior and rising to No. 29 in the ESPN 100.He dazzled college scouts throughout the summer circuit, making his last stop at the Adidas Unrivaled camp in Chicago. There, with schools such as Georgetown, Louisville, UCLA and Arizona interested in him, he tore the ACL in his left knee. Hed already told Miller that he planned to become an Arizona Wildcat, and four days later publicly announced his intention.Wed never had a player not play his senior year and join the program, Miller said. But kids come back from injuries all the time. It was an easy call for us.Kokoskie and the Arizona medical staff kept close watch on Smiths rehab process. They were in constant contact with his Las Vegas-based doctors. When Smith got to campus, Kokoskie saw a player who had treated his rehab with the proper attention and was more than ready to go.A few days into the start of formal practices, Smith went down again, this time tearing the ACL in his right knee.That one was the worst, Smith said. The first one, I was working to get to Arizona. I was just going to work my butt off to get there. The second one, Im sitting there on the bench thinking, Man. I should be out there. I should be able to play.Kokoskie treated the second rehab like a full-body makeover. He tackled Smiths nutrition and made sure he strengthened his core as well as both knees. He fitted Smith with orthotics and proper shoes, even had him take multiple blood tests to make sure the medical teeam wasnt missing anything.ddddddddddddHe progressed so well that he wound up leg-pressing more weight than anyone in the program -- ever.Rather than rush Smith back, Kokoskie was deliberately cautious, holding him out through this past summer even though he technically could have played. Rather than coddle him, Miller made sure to hold Ray accountable. He didnt excuse his redshirt freshman from work or try to make things easier for him, and Smith didnt want that. In the entirety of the preseason, Smith missed only one day of practice.He put in all of the work, Miller said. And hes never going to have the reward. To see a kids dream end like that ...RAY SMITHS BEST FRIEND CALLED Smith in tears, and his Twitter feed blew up with as many cries at the unfairness of it all as wishes to get well.Bobby Smith sighed when he was asked how often hell ask himself what if.For the rest of my life, he said.Ray Smith, meantime, said he has never asked the question most kids in his position might: Why me?The road you want isnt always the road for you, he said simply. Youve got to find a new one.It sounds sincere, an adults perspective coming from of a teenager whose life just took a ridiculously rotten detour. Smith says he gained perspective from the slaying of a high school friend and from people who have hit him up on social media, some with far worse problems, yet called him an inspiration.His acceptance runs deeper than that. There are no what ifs because Smith knows he worked as hard as he could, checked all the rehab to-do list boxes. His body simply said no. Though he wont close the door to basketball entirely -- 98 percent sure, Id say -- gone is the fervor to make yet another comeback. Instead, Smith is trying to refocus his considerable energy on that new path.His career may be over. His life is just beginning.Im not bitter because now I just know Ill just put my time and sleepless nights and effort into something else, he said.What that something else is remains to be seen. He does not lack for personality or confidence. Before his injury he made a star turn in a lip-syncing contest and has since tried his hand at broadcasting. He made a cameo in the managers mannequin challenge and Arizona even edited its pregame hype video, one filled with former Wildcats, to end with Smith announcing This is Arizona.Still on scholarship, he will fill the role of student-coach for the Wildcats this season. Hed like to teach kids the intricacies of the game, beyond just the fundamentals. Or maybe hell get into broadcasting. His path is wide open.First comes the more daunting business of yet another surgery, scheduled for Wednesday. Rehab will be more arduous. In addition to his ACL, Smith tore his meniscus, which Kokoskie explained is the cushioning for the knee. If not treated properly, this tear could lead to arthritis and even knee replacement later in life.Though Smith may not see it yet, the mental recovery likely will be more difficult. Rehab is lonely for any athlete, the solitary monotony of achieving baby steps while teammates go on with the season. For Smith, there wont even be the carrot dangling in front of him, no season or next game to chase.My son is very good at letting people know that hes OK, but I have to deal with when hes not OK, Bobby Smith said. Hes handled it so well, but I know there are some tough days ahead.BOBBY SMITH ADMITS hell have some rough times, too, and already has. After tending to his son the night of the injury, Bobby returned to his Tucson hotel room. His phone buzzing with calls and texts from concerned friends, he was up all night answering them and trying to come to grips with his sons new reality.As it is for any parent with a child who has a passion, Rays love for basketball became Bobbys. He spent years driving his son to and from practices, sitting on creaky bleachers to watch games, agonizing over every failure and celebrating every success. He studied recruiting rankings as hard as his boy did and maneuvered the tricky college recruitment process step by step with Ray.I didnt care if my son was an NBA player until he cared, Bobby said. His success didnt determine my income. I didnt get into this so I could have a rich son. This was his dream, and so it became my dream.A long time ago Bobby told his son that basketball was what he did, not who he was. As Bobby drove Ray to games and practices, he also drove home that message over and over again. He wanted to keep Ray grounded, to make sure his priorities didnt get out of whack.Turns out he was giving his son a life lesson he needed a lot earlier than anyone expected.Ill miss basketball a lot, Ray Smith said. But everyones career eventually ends. Mine just ended a little sooner than everyone else. Basketball doesnt define who I am. Im not sure exactly who that is yet. I know Ill figure it out. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys ' ' '