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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Antowain Smith

   (Born March 14, 1972) -- Not many 25-year-olds have been first-round draft choices in the National Football League. Antowain Smith was an exception to that rule.

   The running back went to high school in Alabama. He then worked in a clothing factory for three years to help support his grandparents, who raised him after he was abandoned by his parents. Then it was on junior college in Mississippi, and college at the University of Houston. He was good enough (1,289 yards) for the Bills to take him first in 1997. Buffalo was looking for a running back who could eventually step in to replace Thurman Thomas.

   "You look for running backs to be ready to play maybe more quickly than other positions anyway," coach Marv Levy said. "Age 25 is old to start (a career), but it's not old to play. Neither is 26 or 27 or 28."

   Smith's time in Buffalo peaked in 1998 when he ran for 1,124 yards. But he was down to 354 yards by 2000 and was not brought back.

   The running back wasn't done yet. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards in total over two years for New England in 2001 and 2002. Smith also played for Tennesee and New Orleans. He finished his career with almost 7,000 yards rushing.

--- Budd Bailey

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