Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Alabama claims national title, WR DeVonta Smith named Offensive MVP as he trusts God

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith first announced himself on college football’s national stage by catching the game-winning touchdown in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game four years ago as a little-used freshman. He leaves the college football stage after turning in one of the finest performances in title game history.

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Smith was named the Offensive MVP on Monday night, as Alabama crushed Ohio State, 52-24, for its 18th national title. The senior receiver accounted for 12 catches, 215 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half. He dislocated a finger early in the third quarter and left the game for good, but had already set a CFP championship game record for receptions and came up just six yards short of the receiving yards record (221, set last year by LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase).

If there was any question as to who college football’s best player was in 2020, Smith definitively answered with just that first half. Earlier in the week, Smith was awarded the Heisman Trophy, along with a slew of other honors (Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Biletnikoff Award, Paul Hornung Award and AP College Football Player of the Year).

On Tuesday, he became the first wideout to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard in 1991. The following Monday, he became the first receiver to win the Heisman and a national title.

In his postgame media session, Smith was his typical humble self and credited God.

“I wouldn’t be able to do none of this without my teammates or without God,” he said. “I just put in the work every day, no matter what the situation was, just believing in my coaches and them putting me in the right situations to make plays.”

At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Smith isn’t an imposing receiver. But he’s been Alabama’s leading receiver the past two years, and is now the SEC’s all-time leading receiver. He’ll be playing in the NFL next year.

During his Heisman acceptance speech, Smith also credited his faith in God for helping him become the player he is.

“To all the young kids out there that’s not the biggest, not the strongest, just keep pushing,” he said. “I’m not the biggest, I’ve been doubted a lot just because of my size. And really, it just comes down to, if you put your mind to it, you can do it. No job is too big. If you put your mind to it, you can do it. And just keep believing in God and you’ll get where you want to be.”

Smith started his speech by saying, “First off, I would like to thank God. Without Him, none of this would be possible.”

His faith in God was fostered by the home in which he grew up. His mother, Christina Smith-Sylve, also pointed to God when asked during the remote Heisman ceremony about what she wanted to say to her son.

“Continue being humble, let God guide him, and we are here to support him every step of the way,” she said.

The family’s faith-based foundation was affirmed by Zephaniah Powell, the head football coach at Amite (La.) High School, where DeVonta played prior to Alabama.

“They are true believers in our Lord and Savior and trust God in all that they do,” Powell told the Baptist Message. “[DeVonta] has a great head on his shoulders and very mature for his age. And he loves to help people and gives back to the community.”

One way he’s given back to the Alabama community in Tuscaloosa is helping deliver two national championships in his four seasons on campus. Monday’s victory marks the Crimson Tide’s sixth title since head coach Nick Saban took over in 2007, and Saban’s seventh overall, the most in the AP poll era (he won one title as LSU’s coach in 2003).

After this one, the Crimson Tide is losing much of its offense. Smith will enter the NFL draft, as will star running back Najee Harris and quarterback Mac Jones. However, Alabama has shown time and time again that it reloads rather than rebuilds.

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