Guy Smith's initiation into high school varsity football was an intimidating experience.
Howard High's star senior running back and linebacker recalls his first varsity game with a mixture of awe and pride.
He was just a freshman when called up to the varsity for the final two games that season, and what team should he face first but the best in the league, Wilde Lake.
The Wildecats, who won the first of three straight state championships that season, were led by much-heralded running back Raphael Wall, who now plays for the University of Maryland.
"I was puny and Wilde Lake was huge," Smith said. "But I was happy to gain 25 yards against them. They [Wildecats] inspired me to start lifting weights. I knew I had to get bigger if I ever wanted to become anything."
Smith has gotten bigger not only in physique but in reputation.
He's 5 feet 11 and 195 pounds now, and bench-presses 360 pounds, making him the strongest player on his team. He runs a 40-yard -- in 4.5 seconds -- one of the fastest times on his team.
Last season, he led the Lions to their best record since 1975 by rushing for 1,119 yards and 13 touchdowns. Seven times, he gained more than 100 yards.
And he's equally as good as a linebacker. He produced 115 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.
"Guy Smith is the No. 1 player in the county," said Oakland Mills coach Ken Hovet.
Wilde Lake coach Doug DuVall called Smith "a real problem on the football field. He has balance, speed, agility and changes directions."
Howard coach John Quinn, a former Penn State lineman, thinks Smith has major college ability.
"He's legitimate. He's a force. You have to respect him. We built our offense around him, and he's our main man on defense," Quinn said. "He's the best player I've coached at Howard."
Smith combines quickness with power, an appealing combination for college scouts. His initial burst is so quick it often carries him through the line before the defense can react properly. Then his power takes over as smaller linebackers and defensive backs move in to tackle him.
He plays hard. He practices hard. He is the first one to line up for practice drills. As team captain last season, he led mainly by example.
"He's quiet, but gives his all and sets a standard others want to live up to," Quinn said.
Smith has spent most of his lifetime perfecting his football skills.
He started playing organized football at 6 and has been a running back since 7.
His older brother Steve and cousin Chris were high school football stars and helped to inspire him.
Steve graduated from Howard in 1990 and played quarterback for the Lions the last time they beat Wilde Lake in 1988.
Chris, who graduated in 1989, quarterbacked City to a win over Poly one season, and was a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who won a scholarship to Howard University.
"My cousin inspired me a lot, always telling me to stick with it," Smith said.
The 17-year-old Thunder Hill resident also finds inspiration from his running back coach, Kevin Broadus.
"Coach Broadus works me the hardest," Smith said.
Smith has one burning goal that drives him through every drill and practice -- to win a county football championship. The Lions haven't won one since 1975.
Howard (7-3, 5-2) came close last season, losing to eventual champ Wilde Lake, 3-0, in overtime.
Smith blames himself for that loss, because he fumbled just before crossing the goal line in an overtime tiebreaker situation.
"It was wet and somebody came from underneath me and popped the ball loose," Smith said. "It was my worst moment -- a real downer."
Wilde Lake kicked a field goal to win, and Howard then lost its next game to Glenelg before reeling off five straight league victories.
Rumor had Smith headed to Wilde Lake this season, but he said there never was anything to it.
"My girlfriend graduated from Wilde Lake and I think that's how that rumor got started," he said. "But I have a lot of respect for Coach DuVall."
Smith hopes the extra work his teammates have put in at the weight room will pay off this season.
"We're quicker and stronger than last year and have a lot of offensive weapons," Smith said. "We're a close team. It's like being out there with your brothers, not just with teammates."
Smith has a shot at a 3,000-yard rushing career. He was used mainly as a blocking back his sophomore year but gained 597 yards. His 1,119 yards last season leave him needing 1,284 yards.
Howard does not play Wilde Lake until the ninth game this season, and when that day comes, Smith is hoping to make amends for his fumble last year.