If he only had a nickel for every double take he’s seen upon being introduced to someone new.
A wide smile flashes across Legend Smith’s face when the subject is broached. The Aurora Christian football standout has a name that is an oxymoron. The last couldn’t be any more common. The first couldn’t be any more unique.
“A lot of people do that,” he said of those surprised looks.
To Legend, there’s no big mystery.
“Both my parents (Charles Smith and Lisa Gordon) just liked (Legend),” he continued, noting his older brother is named Famous. “I think more so my dad. I’m not sure of the reason behind (them).
“I mean, it is what it is. I think that I just try to live up to it.”
In this, his senior season, Smith is coming pretty close.
He’s moved into the role of No. 1 tailback and leads the team in rushing with 1,429 yards on 190 carries and scored 18 touchdowns. He’s also caught 10 passes out of the backfield for another 140 yards and one score.
A second-year starter on defense at cornerback, he’s helped lead the two-time defending Class 3A state champions back to the semifinals. They host Stillman Valley Saturday at 5 p.m.
Smith is also another rarity, it seems, for coach Don Beebe’s Eagles. Legend has avoided the injury bug that has hit this team hard and not missed a game.
“He’s about as consistent as you can be,” said David Beebe, who coordinates brother Don’s defense. “Legend just packs his lunch and goes to work. He doesn’t say much, doesn’t complain. I’m thrilled with the player he is.
“A lot of people don’t realize how important cornerbacks are to run game (defense), even at the highest levels of the game. This guy knows how to come up and make a tackle.”
Containing any plays to the sideline are an important part of his job, said Smith.
Legend Smith’s offensive prowess this season wasn’t a shock to the coaching staff, noted Don Beebe.
“We would have known about Legend (on offense) last year if not for Brandon Mayes and Joel Bouagnon (freshmen players at NIU),” the head coach said. “It’s unfortunate he was behind two guys that good. Sometimes you can’t showcase everyone.
“Legend was very good last year at cornerback but I think his natural position is running back.”
Smith, who has five games with more than 100 yards rushing and a season-high 331 vs. Guerin, said he made it a point to learn as much as he could from last year’s standouts.
“I love those guys, they’re like family to me, like brothers,” he said.
Meanwhile, he quietly does his job.
“He has to be one of the most humble kids I’ve coached,” said Don Beebe. “He’s so genuine and works extremely hard. He got his shot this year and he’s made the most of it.”
He may be only 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, but he packs a wallop.
“I love running back but I love playing defense because there’s nothing like it,” he said, flashing the smile again as he tried to explain it. “It’s not that I’d want to hurt somebody, but something within you comes out (on defense). I don’t know, there’s something about it.”
David Beebe isn’t so sure he agrees with his brother.
“I’m not sure what he’s better at, but he’s very strong and has tremendous body control,” said the defensive coach.
“It’s hard to get a good shot on him when he carries the ball and it’s hard to block him when he’s playing defense.”