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Why Alabama WR DeVonta Smith is not eager to talk about ‘2nd-and-26’

Seven days before he was set to return to the site of his most famous moment, DeVonta Smith didn’t want to talk about a chapter in his life that was as sudden as it was both brief and memorable.

Known as 2nd-and-26 in these parts, the play has come to define the main actors involved — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Smith, the team’s sophomore wideout.

As freshmen, the two connected on a 41-yard strike in overtime that vanquished Georgia and won Alabama’s 17th national championship last January. All these months later, with the Tide and Bulldogs set to meet once more this Saturday in the SEC title game, the dramatic climax to the 2017 college football season is again being exhumed from the archives.

But while Tide fans are eager to relive that night, Smith decidedly isn’t.

“I don’t too much care about the catch no more,” he said. “It’s a new year. We’re moving on.”

It wasn’t a surprising response from a player whose enthusiasm was muted even in the immediate aftermath of a walk-off touchdown against the team to which he originally committed back when he was a four-star recruit.

Vincent Sanders, a barber in Smith’s hometown of Amite, La., remembered seeing the receiver in the postgame celebration that spilled into the Atlanta morning.

Inside Amite: The hometown of DeVonta Smith that is a battleground for SEC recruits

Smith, Sanders recalled, wasn’t exulting.

“He was complaining because he was like, ‘Man, I could do more,’” Sanders said.

Sanders smiled and paused for a beat.

“He’s on a mission. He don’t have time,” Sanders continued.

In truth, Smith has never seemed comfortable in the spotlight. When dealing with the media, his answers are pithy, clipped and representative of the low profile he keeps. This season, he has receded into the background as his teammates, including players in his recruiting class, have attracted attention and accolades.

Tagovailoa is a Heisman Trophy candidate. Fellow sophomore Jerry Jeudy is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award that is presented to the nation’s best receiver.

Smith, meanwhile, has plugged away without creating much buzz. On Alabama’s roster, he has the fifth-most catches with 27 and less than half of Jeudy’s total for receiving yards.

In part, Smith’s modest stat line can be attributed to a hamstring injury he suffered in mid-October that sidelined him for one game and hampered him in others.

His ordinary numbers can’t be ascribed, however, to Smith resting on the laurels he received once he clutched the pass from Tagovailoa and crossed the Mercedes-Benz Stadium goal line on Jan. 8.

“He has moved on,” said Alabama defensive back Shyheim Carter, who grew up near Smith in Kentwood, La. “It’s in one ear and out the other. What happens, happens. We celebrated for a little while.”

There was even a parade thrown for Smith — and Carter, too — back in Tangipahoa Parish, where they were both raised.

“And after that it was time to move on,” Carter said.

But this week Smith has been forced to relive the national championship catch that has come to define his existence at Alabama, whether he likes it or not.

It’s the price he has had to pay for putting the finishing touches on 2nd-and-26 almost 11 months ago.

Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin

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