Broken hand, broken rushing record help define Northstate's top player

Vince Smith, Shasta High School senior, holds his 2017 Northstate Heisman Trophy. Smith was selected the area's top football player for the 2017 season by KRCR. (Photo: KRCR/Shane Faye)

Shasta High School football player Vince Smith broke his hand in week five, in the first quarter of what would be their only regular season loss in 2017. That injury did not end his season. In fact, in some ways, it defined it.

"Once I realized I was able to keep playing with it," Smith said. "I kind of felt even more indestructible."

The senior running back returned to that game, and did not miss a start the rest of the season while wearing a cast on the way to winning the KRCR Xtra Point Northstate Heisman for the 2017 high school season.

Joining with longtime friend Seth Park to create the top rushing duo in the Northstate, Smith rushed for a school record 2,363 yards and tallied 24 touchdowns. Despite playing with a cast on his hand, he was credited with only one fumble all season. Smith topped 100 yards in every game except the finale, their state championship loss to Bishop Diego. He also rushed for 303 yards and three touchdowns in Shasta's 63-26 win over Chico in the CIF Northern Section Division II final, as the Wolves captured their first section championship since 1988.

"He's great," said Park, Smith's close friend on the team who rushed for 1,856 yards in his own right, scoring a school record 31 touchdowns. "(It's) super fun to watch him running down the field and just running people over. He really tore up everybody."

KRCR, which airs Xtra Point during the high school football season, annually presents the Northstate Heisman Trophy to the top player in the area. Last week, Xtra Point host Brent Weber surprised Smith and his teammates by presenting the trophy during the school's annual awards banquet.

"It was really great," Smith said of the presentation at Veterans Hall in Redding, as award sponsors from Cronic Disaster Services revealed the trophy during dinner. "I saw you guys bring it out and was like, 'what?' And my heart kind of dropped, it was pretty cool. Then you called my name and I was pretty excited just to hear my name and hold it in my hands."

Smith has yet to commit to a college, but hopes to continue his playing career for many years. Listed at 5-9, 190 lbs., some scouts are shying away from the running back due to his perceived lack of size. His coach says those critics are dead wrong.

"Something you can't coach, I guess, is frame, but another thing that's really hard to connect with, with all athletes, is what kind of heart is on the inside," said Shasta High head football coach J.C. Hunsaker. "He's got one so big, as a coach that's a gift that's been given to you, a guy who says, 'Hey, here's my heart, I'm gonna pour everything I got into this and just tell me how to do it , coach.' Those are hard to come by."

"Wherever (Smith) goes and plays college football, they're getting a diamond man, for sure."

During the regular season, Smith was honored by KRCR as Xtra Point Player of the Week after rushing for 265 yards and two touchdowns against defending state champion Pleasant Valley, October 27.

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