Lineage of a Linebacker

"Podge" Smith, 1931 Varsity Track Captain
Co-Founder, The Bootleg
Posted Jan 10, 2009
Jim Rutter


Every football recruitment has a story, something that ultimately sways a prospect and draws him to Stanford University. With 2009 LB Shayne Skov, Stanford's highest-ranked verbal commitment to this point, the story is that of Rogers P. Smith, a gifted athletic ancestor who hurdled his way into Stanford sports history 80 years ago and established a legacy his great-grandson will now build upon.

The Lineage of a Linebacker

Stanford's first verbal commitment in the 2009 recruiting class, Shayne Skov, already has become a fan favorite, for his outstanding play on the field, his obvious passion for the game, and his relentless work (along with fellow 2009 verbal Terrence Stephens aka "The Mayor") in helping develop the overall 2009 class with constant lobbying and communication of his fellow recruits. You know this guy is special, but you may not know how special he is in terms of the origins of his determined interest in playing for Stanford. 

This talented young man bleeds Cardinal red, but that shouldn't be a big surprise to anyone because this kid has Stanford Athletics in his blood...or at least in his bloodline. Speed often comes from breed, and this scholarly-athletic acorn apparently hasn't fallen too far from the family tree.

Shayne’s maternal great-grandfather was Rogers P. Smith. Smith, an economics major from Seattle, WA known to friends as “Podge”, was an accomplished low- and high-hurdler and significant contributor on Stanford's powerhouse track teams from 1929 to 1931. He was coached by the legendary "Boy Coach",  Robert Lyman “Dink” Templeton, a meticulous and scrappy coaching pioneer and technician. The knickers-sporting Templeton was a Palo Alto high school grad who excelled in athletics at Stanford before taking over the reins of the Stanford track & field program in 1921 at the age of 24. As a  football player, "Dink" had been considered one of the finest drop-kickers and punters ever to play the game. Under Templeton's fiercely competitive guidance, Stanford actually won the Intercollegiate [ICAAAA] championships in 1927, 1928, and 1929, helped by world-class athletes like Leo Kibby in the javelin and by fleet-footed runners like quarter-miler Emerson L. "Bud" Spencer and Hector "Hec" Dye, the later of which would win a gold medal in the 4 x 400 meter relay in 1932. 

In 1928, Bud Spencer was the king of the 440-yard dash and kanagaroo-legged Bob King dominated the high jump. Strong field performances came from guys like Harlow Rothert in the shot put, Eric Krenz in the discus, and Ward Edmonds in the pole vault. All five of these young men won their individual events at the 1928 NCAA meet, enabling Stanford to capture the NCAA championship, the such second title in school history. 

In 1928, Bud Spencer won an NCAA title in the 440-yard dash with a world-record time of  47.7, set the world 400-meter mark at 47.0 and and was part of the world-record 1600-meter and mile relay teams). Rothert, a three-sport, nine-time letterman at Stanford, won the NCAA shot put title three years in a row and went on to set world records in the shot put, while Krenz broke the world record in the discus with a throw of 167-5 3/8! Both Rothert and Krentz were Olympians in Amsterdam in 1928, where Stanford teammate and King brought home gold in the high jump. Rothert would add a silver medal in the shot put in Los Angeles in 1932. Not enough from Harlow?  The Stanford Hall of Fame was the school's first All-American in basketball and was a football star to boot - wow!

But we digress......back to Shayne's great-grandfather! 

So anyway, "Podge" Smith set the Stanford record in the 220-yard low hurdles at 23.5. The world record at the time for the event was 23.0, set by Charles R. Brookins of the University of Iowa on May 17, 1924, so his performance was certainly Olympic-caliber at the time. 

"Podge" was the varsity captain of the 1931 Stanford Track & Field team (See the above portrait sketch “from life” by student artist Gregor Duncan, LSJU ‘31). The great world record-holding middle distance runner Ben Eastman would be Varsity Captain two years later in 1933, so Podge was in pretty heady company! The varsity track and field captain in those days was awarded the Judah Memorial Captains Award, which was later won by Louis Foster in 1935 (remember when the old Stanford Stadium's field was named "Lou Foster Field"?) and by famed track men like 100-meter world record-holder Clyde Jeffrey in 1940, two-time Olympic decathlon gold medal-winner Bob Mathias in 1953, Chuck Cobb in 1958. Let's not forget that it was awarded to co-captain Rick Tipton in 1971.

Interestingly, “Podge” Smith served later as “finish judge”, running one of the four “official watches” at the very same Stanford-LAAC (Los Angeles Athletic Club) meet in which Stanford’s Ben Eastman broke the world record with a 46.4 in the 440-yard dash on March 26, 1932.

Since I am home watching the kids, tonight, I thought I would take some time to walk our readers through Shayne's great-grandfather's track career at Stanford 

1928 Freshman Track

"Podge" Smith was a teammate of Hector M. “Hec” Dyer, who would go on to a tremendous career as a sprinter (please see his oral history at http://www.aafla.org/6oic/OralHistory/OHDyer.pdf , which provides some great stories of Stanford Track at the time. In the "Little Big Meet" against Cal that year, “Podge” finished second in the low hurdles to his classmate and teammate Dyer (26-flat) and placed second in the high hurdles behind only California’s Young (16.1). The “Babes” routed Cal’s "Bear Cubs", winning 9 of 14 first places in the various events. Dyer was the high point man in the meet.

1929 Varsity

In the spring of 1929, when he was a sophomore, Smith finished third in the 220-yard low hurdles in the Stanford-USC meet behind Stanford’s Edmonds and USC’s captain Ernie Payne. Winning time was 25 flat. At the Big Meet vs. California, he finished third in the 120-yard high hurdles, finishing behind only his Stanford teammates Ross “Nick” Nichols (1929 varsity captain) and outstanding pole-vaulter Ward Edmonds – The winning time was 15.4. He also placed second to Edmonds in the 220-yard low hurdles – winning time was 25.2. AT the Pacific Association Championships, Smith was second in the 220-yard low hurdles to Edmonds (24.8) of Stanford and second place in the 120-yard high hurdles to Nichols of Stanford (15 flat). Stanford was the I.C.A.A.A.A. champion, the school's third straight such championship.

1930 Varsity 

In the first dual meet of the season against the L.L.A.C, “Podge” Smith won the winning the 120 highs in 15 flat and taking the 220 lows in a sizzling 24.1. Against the Olympic Club, it was “Pudge” again with a double win! Against a loaded USC team, he managed a tie with Welsh of the Trojans at 15.0. Smith then won both events against Washington. At the Annual Pacific Association of the American Athletic Union meet at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco on May 3, 1930, “Podge” hit the second hurdle and fell to fall out of the 120 highs, but rallied to win the 220 lows in 24.2. The “curly-haired barrier-topper” tied for first in the 220 lows in the Big Meet with Cal (24.4) and finished third in the 120 highs. The Stanford team traveled back to Harvard field on May 30-31, 1930 and brought home second place in the I.C.A.A.A.A. championships (unfortunately behind the damned USC Trojans), thanks to the likes of shot put unofficial world record holder Harlow Rothert (a three- or four-sport star athlete including football!) and official discus world record-holder Eric Krenz. “Podge” definitely "placed" and “pointed” in the hurdles, but while I can’t tell for sure, I don’t believe he "won". Rothert and Krenz are in the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame. Who knows, Podge didn't make it into the Hall, but perhaps his great-grandson will!

1931 Varsity

Now the senior varsity captain, Smith became a true star. He went wild against the L.A.A.C. “Mercury”, running a beautiful race in the low hurdles to win by four yards! He was a double-winner against the Olympic Club once again. Despite an early season muddy track, Smith won the highs and lows in 15.2 and 24.2 respectively. Then, against The University of Washington, he won the unusual 80-yard high hurdles in 10-flat and the unusual 180-yard low hurdles in a time of 20.6, In the USC meet, he bested fellow Stanford teammate Al Nisbet in the high hurdles with a 15.2. A severe leg cramp held him out of the low hurdles that day, won by USC’s Payne in 23.4.

In the “Big Meet” against California came the “big” performance. After three false starts, Stanford captain “Podge” Smith blazed to a school record 23.6 in the 220-yard low hurdles, ranking him along with SC’s Payne among the country’s premier hurdlers. Al Nisbet finished second in that race, but then edged Smith in the 110 highs. "Podge" finished second.

In the April 25, 1931 PAA meet at Kezar Stadium, won by the Olympic Club, Stanford finished second. I can’t confirm Smith’s finish, yet, but I figure he may have won at least one of the hurdles events. This may well be the track medal young Shayne has been reported wearing around his neck on occasion. Superstar Ben Eastman won the 880 by fifteen yards, shaving a full five seconds off the PAA meet record. Wow!

Teammates and others “Podge” Smith would have known from that great era of track & field at Stanford include many distinguished members of our Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame, including “Dink” Templeton (Coach 1921-39), Tiny Hartranft '29, Bob King '29, Ward Edmonds, '30, discus champion Eric Krenz, '30, 1932 Olympics 400-meter relay gold medalist “Hec” Dyer, '31, Harlow Rothert '31, Bud Spencer, '32, Henri Laborde, '33, Bill Miller, '33, and 1932 Olympic silver medal-winner in the 400, the legendary Benjamin Bangs “Ben” Eastman, '33, a world record holder in both the 400- and 800-meters.

Shayne's great-grandfather was not just a track man, as evidenced by his membership in several campus "societies" including the "Skull and Snakes" Men's Honor Society (members included football players Dud De Groot, Phil Moffet, Harry Hillman, and Chuck Ehrhorn) and another called "Phi Phi". His track teammate Maynor Shove belonged to the same secret societies. They must have been good buddies.

Not that this information from four score years ago will mean much to young athletes these days. Track is nowhere near the same prominent glory sport it once was in terms of national attention in this country. Occasionally, I will do one of these T&F-intensive stories to give my pal "Bobbk" a cheap thrill!) Still, it goes to show that if you dream big and work hard, there will be people that remember you fondly long after you are gone. 

Athletics - your best non-spiritual chance at immortality.


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