North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
When football players of today get into a contract dispute with their teams, their only recourse is to hold out. Back in 1984, they had another option.
And Doug Smith took advantage of it.
Unable to agree with the Houston Oilers, who made him the first pick of the second round in that year’s draft (29th overall), the native of Bayboro instead signed with the Birmingham Stallions of the upstart USFL.
“It’s an honor to be involved with such a great program,” Smith said after signing a four-year deal worth an estimated $1.2 million with a signing bonus of $350,000. “I’m looking forward to the next four or five years” with the team that won the USFL’s Southern Division the previous season.
As it turned out, Smith’s time with the Stallions lasted only a single season. After recording five sacks and being named to the All-USFL team as a rookie in 1985, the league folded and the 6-foot-4, 294-pound nose tackle ended up with the Oilers. Since the USFL played in the spring and the NFL in the fall, he played two seasons that year.
He spent the rest of his career in Houston, an eight-year stretch that was threatened in 1990 when he suffered a gunshot to the knee during a gathering of family and friends near his childhood home.
Smith was a local legend in Bayboro, a town with a population of less than 2,000 on the Bay River.
After starring at Pamlico High School, where he earned a spot on the New Bern Sun Journal’s All-Time team in 2016, he accepted a scholarship to Auburn. There, he hit the big-time by earning All-SEC honors in both 1982 and ’83. Smith was a Playboy All-American as a junior and played in the Senior Bowl the year after, earning the all-star game’s Defensive MVP award for helping the South team to a 23-7 victory.