Smith runnin' the show

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Seeing he's replacing Henry Burris, there is one quality newly appointed starting pivot Akili Smith is already displaying.

"I was running around the field all day with a big smile and cracking jokes," said Smith after his first practice taking Smilin' Hank's position as the Calgary Stampeders quarterback. "I'm so thankful to God for this opportunity. I was real excited, just a little jittery. I'm anticipating a great game."

When Smith steps in for Burris, who is out at least two weeks with a dislocated shoulder, it will be the former NFL first-round draft pick's first start in three years.

The last time he had a full-week's preparation and started was in 2005, when he played with Frankfurt of NFL Europe. He can hardly contain his excitement, witnessed by his bounding energy through practice yesterday at McMahon Stadium.

The Stamps are trying to bottle that for Saturday's game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.

"There's no pressure in there -- everybody's been laughing and excited in the locker-room," Smith said. "Most guys are just saying, 'Let's do it.' Some guys aren't saying much, just focusing on themselves. That's good. We just need to keep this thing rolling."

The Cincinnati Bengals made Smith the No. 3 pick in the 1999 NFL draft. After a month-long holdout, which he says is his only regret, he threw a game-winning touchdown pass in his first start.

It went downhill from there, as the Bungals suffered through four losing seasons with Smith aboard.

Now at 32, Smith is more mature and ready to handle the pressures of a pro start. Before signing with the Stamps in the off-season, he was selling real estate in San Diego and settling down.

He got married just before coming to Canada and says that has immensely changed his life for the better.

"I have a beautiful wife now, so I spend a lot more time in the house," said Smith.

Being in Canada with the Stamps has provided some of the most enjoyable times of his football career. He's a sponge for information and spends most off-days in the office reviewing game tape, which has impressed offensive co-ordinator George Cortez.

"Akili's been a very good student -- very into it the whole time he's been here," Cortez said. "I told him we don't have the market cornered on ideas. If he has ideas, I told him to bring them to us. I will steal from anybody.

"The biggest challenge is to stay calm because he's fired up."

EXTRA POINTS

The Stamps are bringing in ex- NFL receiver Az-Zahir Hakim to see if he can help, possibly in the return game. Hakim was cut by Miami Dolphins in training camp but played nine years in the NFL in St. Louis, Detroit and New Orleans ...Stamps DB Brandon Browner was back practising yesterday with the first-team defence. He has recovered from his ankle sprain to return this week ... Lions OL Sherko Haji-Rasouli was suspended one game by the league for his part in a brawl Saturday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Haji-Rasouli, OL Rob Murphy and WR Cory Rodgers were fined as well.


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