Defensive back Alphonso Smith seemed like a can’t-miss prospect when he entered the 2009 NFL Draft.
Smith set several school records when he suited up for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons from 2005 to 2008.
In former Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels’ eyes, Smith could’ve been the next Ray Crockett, Tyrone Braxton, Louis Wright, or Champ Bailey.
Instead, the Broncos wound up with a colossal bust who failed to register a single pick in his lone season in the Mile High City.
Smith tried to resuscitate his pro football career with the Detroit Lions, to no avail.
Had Alphonso Smith lived up to lofty expectations, he would’ve been a shoo-in as a Pro Bowl defensive back for many years.
Unfortunately, he never did.
Alphonso Smith Jr., was born to parents Alphonso, Sr. and Sharon in Pahokee, FL on October 20, 1985.
Alphonso Smith began playing the drums in seventh grade. He took rock band classes in junior high school for two straight years. He can still play the drums to this day.
Smith considered playing in a pee wee football game before the Orange Bowl in Miami, FL in 1996 his best football moment.
He recalled throwing two touchdown passes and running for another one, per VanOchten.
Smith attended Pahokee High School in his Florida hometown.
Since Smith was sixteen or seventeen years old, he had always wanted to return to his alma mater and become part of the Blue Devils coaching staff, per The Palm Beach Post’s Andrew Marra.
That dream would come true some fourteen years later in 2015.
Pahokee High School (Pahokee, FL)
— Prep2ProDB (@Prep2ProDB) January 28, 2022
Had Smith’s giridiron career not come to fruition, he wanted to become a lawyer, per MLive.com.
Smith was a two-sport star who excelled in basketball and football at Pahokee High.
Smith played quarterback and defensive back for Pahokee Blue Devils head coach Leroy Foster.
He played lights out on both sides of the ball as a senior in 2004.
When Smith played under center, he had 2,400 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. He added 640 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns for good measure.
As a cornerback, Smith had 27 tackles, 1.0 sack, and four interceptions.
Smith’s exploits helped the Blue Devils win thirteen of fourteen games in his senior year.
He had a 58-yard touchdown pass to future Wake Forest Demon Deacons teammate Demir Boldin in the 2B state championship.
Smith earned MVP honors in the Blue Devils’ victory. He also earned First-Team All-State honors as a defensive back and finished second for Player of the Year honors in Florida.
Alphonso Smith evolved into a first-rate college defensive back with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the next step of his gridiron journey.
College Days With The Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Alphonso Smith attended Wake Forest University from 2005 to 2009. Smith, who majored in history, was known as “Zo” and “Prime” during his college days in Winston-Salem, NC.
Smith got his college football career with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons off to a rousing start.
As a true freshman in the 2005 NCAA season, Smith had 52 solo tackles and three interceptions. He added a pick-six for good measure.
Unfortunately, Wake Forest won just four of eleven games and failed to receive a bowl invite for the thirteenth straight year.
Despite the Demon Deacons’ sub-par campaign, Alphonso Smith won a slew of accolades as a freshman cornerback.
Smith was a member of CollegeFootballNews.com, ESPN.com, and Scout.com’s First-Team Freshman All-American Team in 2005. He also earned a spot in Sporting News‘ ACC All-Freshman Team.
Smith turned in a similar performance a year later. He had 38 solo tackles and three interceptions in his sophomore campaign in 2006.
Wake Forest turned the corner and had a gaudy 11-3 win-loss record in head football coach Jim Grobe’s sixth year at the helm.
Regrettably, the Demon Deacons lost to the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals in the 2007 Orange Bowl, 24-13.
Smith kicked things up a notch as a junior in 2007. He had 36 solo tackles, eight interceptions, and an incredible three pick-sixes.
One of those pick-sixes came at the expense of the Maryland Terrapins on September 22, 2007.
Smith returned an interception 100 yards the other way to help the Demon Deacons overcome a 24-3 deficit and win in stunning fashion, 31-24.
According to Wake Forest’s official athletics website, it was the longest return in school history.
His eight interceptions led the nation and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2007 and remains a school record.
To nobody’s surprise, Alphonso Smith earned First-Team All-ACC honors in 2007.
With Smith clicking on all cylinders, Wake Forest won nine of thirteen games in the 2007 NCAA season.
The Demon Deacons beat the Connecticut Huskies in the 2007 Meineke Car Care Bowl, 24-10.
Alphonso Smith returned for his senior season and promptly picked up where he left off in 2007.
Smith had 28 solo tackles and seven interceptions as a senior in 2008.
Wake Forest finished with a respectable 8-5 win-loss record that year. They beat the Navy Midshipmen in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl, 29-19.
Alphonso Smith ended his college football career in resounding fashion. He earned First-Team All-ACC honors for the second consecutive year.
The Associated Press, CBS Sports, American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp, and Football Writers Association all named Smith to their respective First-Team All-American rosters in 2008.
Smith was also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award as the country’s best defensive player that year.
His 21 career interceptions remain a school record to this very day. Smith’s 61 passes defended rank second all-time in Demon Deacons program history.
With Alphonso Smith’s glowing college football credentials, it seemed he was destined for stardom in the National Football League.
Alas, nobody would’ve predicted this star-studded cornerback would fade into oblivion from the pro football ranks after just four seasons.
Pro Football Career
The Denver Broncos made Alphonso Smith the 37th overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft.
The Broncos traded their 2010 first-round selection to the Seattle Seahawks so they could draft the 5’9″, 193-lb. cornerback from Wake Forest.
Unfortunately, Smith, who signed a four-year, $4.08 million contract with the Broncos in July 2009, never panned out in the Mile High City.
To make matters worse for the Broncos, the 2010 first-rounder they dealt to the Seahawks turned out to be seven-time Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas.
Thomas was a core member of Seattle’s vaunted “Legion of Boom” along with Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Brandon Browner.
With Thomas on board, the Seahawks won their first Super Bowl title in 2014. Ironically, they blew out Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8.
As for the Broncos, they were a mediocre team with Alphonso Smith in their secondary.
Denver finished with an 8-8 win-loss record in 2009. They failed to contend for the postseason for the fourth straight year.
Smith had nine solo tackles and three passes defensed in fifteen games for the Broncos. He failed to record a single interception in his only season with the Broncos.
Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels received plenty of criticism for selecting Smith. Some experts even considered Denver’s rookie crop from 2009 one of the worst – if not the worst – in franchise history.
Five of the ten rookies McDaniels and Co. drafted that year already retired from the NFL by 2014.
Aside from Smith, the others included tight end Richard Quinn, guard Seth Olson, quarterback Tom Brandstater, and center Blake Schlueter.
The Broncos traded Smith to the Detroit Lions for tight end Dan Gronkowski – Rob Gronkowski’s older brother – on September 4, 2010.
According to ESPN’s Bill Williamson, Denver traded Smith because his fellow rookie defensive backs Perrish Cox and Syd’Quan Thompson outplayed him.
To put things in proper perspective, Cox was a fifth-round pick while Thompson was seventh-round draft choice.
Smith clearly didn’t meet expectations in Denver. Fortunately, he received a new lease on life in Detroit.
Smith flipped the switch when he played for the Lions in the 2010 NFL season.
He led Detroit with five interceptions through the team’s first twelve games. He even had a 42-yard pick-six during that stretch.
All of a sudden, Tom Brady happened.
Brady, the legendary New England Patriots quarterback, had a feast day on Thanksgiving Day against the hapless Lions.
He completed 21 of 27 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots’ 45-24 lopsided win over Detroit.
Brady threw two of those four touchdown passes Smith’s way. Smith taunted Brady when he wagged his finger after the Patriots threw an incompletion earlier in the game.
To compound matters, Smith couldn’t put the clamps on New England wide receiver Deion Branch, who had a 79-yard touchdown reception.
Branch added another one in the latter part of the game.
The price of taunting the GOAT: Back in 2010, the Lions' Alphonso Smith gave Tom Brady the finger wag after an incompletion. On the next four drives, Brady threw 4 touchdown passes, all targeting Smith 🐐
(Credit to talkistalkischeap/Reddit) pic.twitter.com/QWfnHDbQMd
— NFL on ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsNFL) February 9, 2021
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz had seen enough. He promptly benched Smith after his second costly defensive miscue.
A remorseful Smith apologized profusely after the Thanksgiving Day loss.
“I just want to apologize to my teammates because they played so hard,” Smith told NFL.com. “I feel as if I was the catalyst for this loss.”
Without warning, the bottom fell out on Alphonso Smith.
He sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in the Lions’ loss to their NFC North rivals, the Chicago Bears, the following week.
To add insult to injury, Smith broke his foot while he worked out during the lockout in the summer of 2011. Consequently, he missed the entirety of Lions training camp.
Detroit signed Eric Wright and re-signed Chris Houston to bolster its defensive back depth. Smith suddenly became the Lions’ third-string cornerback.
However, injuries to Wright, Houston, and Aaron Berry allowed Smith to contribute to the Lions’ nickel packages early in the 2011 NFL season.
Alphonso Smith finished his third pro season with 24 solo tackles and three interceptions in eleven games for Detroit.
The Lions had a rare winning season in 2011. They won ten games but lost to Drew Brees’ New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card Game, 45-28.
Injuries to Lions cornerbacks Jacob Lacey and Bill Bentley paved the way for Smith to re-sign with the Lions the following season.
According to MLive.com’s Anwar S. Richardson, Smith signed a one-year contract worth $700,000 in October 2012.
Unknown to Smith, it was the last NFL contract he’d ever sign.
How are the lions letting brandon marshall end up in 1-on-1 matchups v. Alphonso smith? #noguntherno
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) October 23, 2012
Two weeks after re-signing with the Lions, Smith incurred a hefty $15,750 fine for his horse-collar tackle on Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall in Detroit’s 13-7 loss.
Smith had just two passes defended and seven solo tackles in four games for the Lions in 2012. He didn’t have a single interception.
After a successful 2011 NFL campaign, Detroit took a huge step backward with a disastrous 4-12 record a year later.
Smith played out his one-year contract with the Lions and never signed with another NFL team since the end of the Lions’ tumultuous 2012 season.
Alphonso Smith finished his disappointing four-year NFL career with eight interceptions, two pick-sixes, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and 70 solo tackles.
During Smith’s short NFL tenure, he singled out legendary Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning as the best pro football player he played against.
“It’s very hard not to go with Peyton Manning not only because he’s the best player, but he’s a player-coach.” Smith told MLive.com in November 2010. “He takes it upon himself to be responsible. If you were starting an NFL team, he’d be the first pick.”
When VanOchten asked Smith what he’d do if he became NFL commissioner for a day, the latter said he couldn’t imagine himself being in that position to begin with.
Alphonso Smith, his wife, and their two children currently reside in the Pahokee, FL area.
Smith ventured into sports broadcasting after he retired from the National Football League.
He worked as a sideline reporter for the Wake Forest radio team in the 2013 NCAA season.
Alphonoso Smith’s dream of coaching his old high school football team came true some two years later.
Smith returned to his old stomping grounds as the head football coach of the Pahokee Blue Devils on January 24, 2015.
However, it didn’t take long for Smith to make headlines again.
Pahokee High School administrators suspended Smith due to allegations of inappropriate conduct in November 2015, per Marra.
They eventually dismissed him two months later. Smith felt several individuals didn’t want him around.
“Some people in this community had a problem with me and would go to great lengths to do and say some of the most obscene things to have their way,” Smith told The Palm Beach Post’s Jodie Wagner in January 2016. “That’s unfortunate. That’s hurtful.:
Smith also told Wagner his departure stemmed from clashing with individuals who had a different vision for the Pahokee High School football program.
Despite the fallout with the school, Smith appreciated his time as the Blue Devils head football coach.
He told The Palm Beach Post he moved back to the area because of that job which had been his dream since he was in high school.
“I had no other reason to come back other than that job,” Smith told Wagner. “I held that job. It was really dear to me, and it still is.”
Smith guided the Pahokee Blue Devils to an impressive 8-2 win-loss record after taking over from previous head football coach Blaze Thompson in January 2015.
Eight months after Smith’s suspension, Palm Beach police arrested him after a woman accused him of battery.
Palm Beach County Sheriff deputies described the woman as Smith’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his then-11-month-old daughter.
Smith was at her home in Belle Glade to visit the child when the alleged incident happened. He denied hitting her.
He became the head football coach of the Inlet Grove Hurricanes on April 21, 2021.
Smith and the Hurricanes mutually agreed to part ways on January 21, 2022, per The Palm Beach Post’s Emilee Smarr.
Inlet Grove athletic director Hakeem Banks told Smarr the decision wasn’t related to football. He stressed Smith did a great job during his tenure and wanted a new coach who can build on his success.
Under Smith’s leadership, the Hurricanes won three of ten games. Smith and his coaching staff built the team from the ground up. Since all of the players were Smith’s recruits, it was a daunting task.
Smith considered Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant his favorite athlete from another sport.
“Simple: because he has that Jordan-like attitude when he’s playing the game,” he told VanOchten. “He’s going to outwork everyone.”
Smith felt Bryant’s swagger set him apart from other NBA players.
Alphonso Smith told MLive.com in 2010 his favorite TV shows were “Martin” and “CSI:Miami.”
He drives a CLS 550 Mercedes Benz while his wife goes around town in a Range Rover. Smith also has two beagles named Chandler and Boss.
Smith considers Popeye’s his favorite food. He likes ordering the three-piece chicken dish (all legs). His favorite side dishes are rice, mashed potatoes, and red beans.
If someone were to portray Smith in a movie about his life, he wanted the actor Derek Luke to do the honors.
Luke played the part of Sean “Diddy” Combs in the 2009 movie “Notorious.”
Aside from coaching, Smith’s bucket list includes visiting Dubai and sending his kids off to college.
There’s nothing Smith fears more in life than snakes.
“Snakes,” he told MLive.com. “That’s all I fear. I freak out when I see them.”
The Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame inducted Alphonso Smith in 2022.
He learned about his induction via a Zoom call from selection committee chairman Dr. Pete Brubaker in December 2021.