Park View senior Donny Smith has known since he was 5 years old that he wanted to play football. It was, after all, in his blood.
Smith's father, Jeff, was an honorable mention All-Met quarterback at Washington-Lee High in Arlington. His grandfather, Thomas Huston, was a teammate of Sam Huff's at West Virginia. And Donny Smith had grown up with a football in his hand.
But when he asked his father if he could play, he was told he'd have to wait.
"It wasn't like I was little or anything, but he just said he didn't want me to get hurt," Smith said. "I guess he wanted me to grow up a little bit first. I was about 10 years old before he let me start."
And he hasn't stopped -- growing or playing football -- since.
Smith is a solid 6 feet 2 and 280 pounds and has developed into one of the best linemen in the Dulles District. He played offensive and defensive tackle a year ago, but after improving his speed and quickness in the offseason will line up at guard this fall. He is the centerpiece of a massive Patriots offensive line that averages 265 pounds.
"We've got  seniors on this team and we've all been working hard since our freshman year, spending extra time in the weight room to get bigger and stronger," Smith said. "Coach [Charlie] Pierce expects a lot out of us. He tells us every day in practice that we're the heart of the team. I think he's right, and I don't want to let him down."
Pierce, a former lineman himself, understands the "all guts, no glory" catchphrase that linemen often associate with. And it's why he's worked so hard, he said, to make sure his players know just how much he appreciates all they do in the trenches.
"There's no question I have a special place in my heart for linemen," Pierce said. "And Donny's got all the intangibles that you have to have to play that position. He's just a football guy. He lives, eats and breathes football, 100 percent, day and night. Just as valuable as someone like [all-district linebacker Travis] Huff is to us at linebacker and fullback, [Smith] is to our line.
"And as good as he is skills-wise, with great footwork and leverage and all of that, his strength is still his leadership. He's a quiet type, but definitely leads by example."
This year Smith is hoping to lead his team straight into the end zone.
"All I want is for us to score points," said Smith, whose team averaged 18.3 points per game in 2003 but was also held to 10 points or fewer four times. "I want our quarterback and running backs to do well. If they're doing well, then whether we get the headlines or not, people will respect our offensive line. And that's what you play for."