The world awaits him, but is the "World" ready?
Is Raymond (World) Smith -- apparently the world's largest high school football player at 435 pounds, that's 435!!! -- ready to conquer new worlds now that his career is over at H.D. Woodson in Northeast Washington?
In a word, yes. World Smith, an 18-year-old senior, will be deciding any time now where he'll be heading off to college in August. He's "looking forward to going away." Right now, it's between Tennessee State and Central State in Ohio. He likes them both.
It's no surprise that both schools would like to have him in the center of their offensive or defensive lines. He's so big that he had to miss the first five games of his junior year before a seamstress could complete a pair of football pants to fit him. At 435, he's a whole person bigger than William (The Refrigerator) Perry.
He'll play at 100 pounds less in college, says Smith's high school coach, Bob Headen. "I'm sure they'll put him on a supervised diet and have somebody with him most of the time," he said.
Somebody to make sure he raids no refrigerators.
But can you believe this? Headen said, "I've never seen him eat."
People wonder about World Smith: How did he get so big? How tall is he? (6 feet 6.) How good a player is he? What kind of fellow is he? How has fame affected him?
Indeed, Smith has achieved a degree of worldwide fame. He has been written up in national publications, he has been on NBC News. Someone saw him on TV in Saudi Arabia.
Talk about fan mail. "It surprised me," said Smith. "I keep it stacked in my room."
Headen said, "He got one letter from a girl who said she was 6-2, weight unknown."
Fame has been good for Smith, Headen said. "He used to be very shy. When he was younger, he liked to stay in the house. When he first got here, he'd sit in the back of the cafeteria. He wouldn't say anything. Even when he was with the team, he still wouldn't say much.
"But I got two girls, two seniors, to talk to him at lunch, sit down and talk with him. The next day they went back. Then the next day another group sat down with him. Some of them wanted his autograph.
"Now everybody wants to sit with him. But the only time I ever saw him eat was for a TV camera. They wanted him to show them how he ate."
Headen also says Smith has responded well to "responsibility." Headen made him captain of the football team and, as such, the leader of calisthenics.
"We moved him out front. Now he has to say what exercises we do." He's also timekeeper for Woodson's girls basketball team and manager for the boys team. Players' names are listed high on a wall in the Woodson gym, and at the bottom of the boys list is: "Mgr.: World."
Smith is even outgoing, to some extent. One day he wore a T-shirt with "World" on the back.
"He's not conscious about his size anymore," said Headen.
Smith gives no details about his eating habits except to confirm that he has always been a hearty eater. He says his weight dropped from 465 to 415 during last season and that he is weighed on an industrial food scale at school. Added Headen: "When he was in sixth grade, he was 300 pounds."
At his weight, Smith could not do a single lap in his junior year when he went out for football. But Headen insists that Smith has "never had any trouble" as a result of his weight. "The first thing people say, he's too big, he must have heart trouble. He doesn't have any of that."
Smith's mother, Marion, echoes Headen. "There's nothing wrong with Raymond," she said of the oldest of her three children. "He's 100 percent healthy."
Like any mother, she worries about him playing football, especially when opponents "are on top of him." But she has given him her approval to play because, after all, "he likes it."
He's determined, Headen learned. At first, if he couldn't run a lap, he walked the rest of it. "He could run a whole lap after his first year," said Headen.
An assistant coach saw him and declared, "You're as big as a world," and the name stuck.
Smith has progressed. Headen said, "He told me that in his first game, the player across the line from him looked scared. But he was scared, too. This was the first time he had ever played in an organized football game."
Since then, Smith has proven to be a good offensive player, a tackle. "He's as quick off the line as any player on the team," said Headen. "Every time we needed yards, we went inside."
But Smith also can use his speed to pull out of the line and lead a play. He likes the "flanker hitch," on which he runs to the right and sets up in front of the wide receiver, who takes a screen pass. Smith then mows down anyone in sight. "I didn't think he was going to use it that much," said Smith, pleased. As Headen said, "We've been very successful with that play. He comes out and cuts everything down."
On the "quick pitch," Smith also pulls out and clears the way. He smiles. "The cornerback doesn't expect a big person to pull out that quick."
On one "veer right," said Smith, "I blocked my man, and when I was falling down I tripped up the linebacker, and the runner scored."
He also likes the simple dive. "I take my man one on one," he said. The running back follows him closely -- "up my back."
Smith also can play defense; he's as effective as a wall in short-yardage situations. "The first time we put him in on defense," said Headen, "he stopped the play."
Smith believes that in college, he'll be most effective between 320 and 340 pounds and that he can make the weight. But he also admits, "When the offseason starts, I hate to lift."
College coaches can't wait to help him slim to the 300s. Central State's head man, Billy Joe, a former pro player, told Smith he knew how to coach big guys; he already has a couple of 310-pounders, and Smith could move in on the line next to one. Meanwhile, Tennessee State sent a very large assistant coach to see Smith. "He must have weighed 270," said Headen.
Yet all the attention -- the press, the TV, the college coaches, his popularity at school -- has not harmed World Smith. Said his mother, "He hasn't changed. He's a likable young man."