Many football fans in Millbrook will be rooting for the New England Patriots this week. Patriots running back Antowain Smith grew up in Millbrook before taking the long road to the NFL.
When Antowain Smith graduated from Stanhope Elmore High School a decade ago, both Auburn and Alabama offered him scholarships. But Antowain turned down both the Tigers and the Tide, he had something more important to do.
Antowain remembers, "(I needed) to take care of my grandparents who were ill at the time. My grandmother was suffering from kidney disease; my grandfather had cancer. So I just chose to stay home and take care of them because while they were able, they did everything in their power to make sure Antowain Smith had the best."
Antowain got a job at a factory in Prattville working from 3 to 11 and making money to help take care of his grandparents. When his grandmother died a few years later, Antowain decided to give college, and football, a try. "That was always her wish. She was like, 'Boy, there's nothing in the streets for you... You need to go to school and get an education.' So when she passed, that was my way of making her dream come true," says Antowain.
Antowain dominated in his one season at a junior college in Mississippi. That led to a scholarship from the University of Houston. Two years there and he was ready for the NFL. He was drafted in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. The 25-year-old rookie made a strong debut . He gained a thousand yards in 1998. By last season however, Antowain had gotten lost in the "running back shuffle."
The Bills cut him last summer after 4 seasons with the team. But, a month later, he signed with New England just in time for training camp. He won the starting job with the Patriots and rushed for a career-high 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns.
For New England to have a chance to pull off what would be a huge upset on Super Sunday, Antowain Smith will need a huge game. "It's a gratifying feeling to come from everything that I've had to overcome - being let go by the Bills and picked up by the Patriots. We started off a little slow, 0-2 , when Drew went down. We had a little controversy. But I think this team has overcome a lot. We have overcome everything that's been put in front of us. We've got one more hurdle to jump and hopefully we can go out there and get that job done on Sunday," says Antowain.