This article was originally written by Daniel Payne and appeared in The Daily Iowan on November 20, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
It’s fitting that Tevaun Smith’s favorite NFL player is Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton. The Iowa wide receiver enjoys the highlight-reel plays and the thrill the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner performs on the field on a weekly basis.
Yes, he enjoys Newton’s end-zone dance moves after touchdowns, too.
“It’s cool to have fun on the field,” Smith said. “He’s an emotional guy, he makes a lot of plays. They’re undefeated right now, so that’s exciting.”
Someone could say the same thing about Smith and the 10-0 Hawkeyes. Of course, Smith isn’t the caliber of player Newton was or is — he is, however, the flashiest player on head coach Kirk Ferentz’s roster.
When thinking of the senior’s performance since he moved to a substantial role in Iowa’s offense his true sophomore season, 2013, a litany of “SportsCenter” Top-10-worthy plays come to mind.
In 2013 against Michigan, Smith’s first touchdown at Iowa came in the form of a 55-yard, one-handed grab on a post route. Last season, he opened with a bang against Northern Iowa, reversing the field twice on a 35-yard run before stepping out of bounds around the 25-yard line.
A few plays later, the Toronto native grabbed another one-hander (he actually pinned the ball against his shoulder with his forearm) from 6 yards out for 6 points. His 31-yard touchdown catch against Northwestern in 2014 comes to mind, too.
It doesn’t stop there.
In January, Smith unofficially broke New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s world record for most one-handed catches in a minute. Beckham caught 33; Smith nabbed 41.
“I just wanted to see if I could do it, and yeah, I ended up actually beating it,” Smith said.
This year, his 81-yard touchdown grab and 29.75 average per catch against North Texas, along with his 21-yard pass to Matt VandeBerg last week against Minnesota top the highlight tape.
“There isn’t anything specifically,” running back Jordan Canzeri said when asked if any of Smith’s plays stand out over another. “He’s made great plays … he’s a great athlete, great guy; it’s been awesome having him part of this team.”
Part of that, of course, is chemistry with his quarterback, part of it is Smith simply making plays. Say what you will about Jake Rudock and say what you will about C.J. Beathard, but Smith has been a playmaker for the Hawkeyes, regardless of who is behind the center.
“I know what he’s thinking, and he knows what I’m thinking,” Beathard said earlier this season.
It’s that ability that makes Smith so valuable and why he will be remembered as one of Iowa’s most exciting players in recent memory. Assuming Iowa takes care of business against Purdue and clinches the Big Ten West on Saturday, he’ll have at least four more games to add to his already impressive résumé, which would be right up his alley.
“Those are the plays that people remember you for,” Smith said. “It’s good to have plays like that rather than you catching a ball and running a regular touchdown.
“To have a reverse pass or a one-handed catch, you’re remembered for stuff like that. That stuff is exciting for the fans, and it’s obviously exciting for you.”