Jeremiah Masoli became the odd man out in at least one aspect of the competition for the starting quarterback job with the Omaha Nighthawks.
After the team signed Troy Smith to a United Football League contract on Thursday, Masoli became the only quarterback on the Nighthawks' roster without a Heisman Trophy.
Smith laughed heartily when asked if that's something he and Eric Crouch might use to chide the rookie from Mississippi.
"We can't mess with him at all,'' Smith said. "Masoli is playing some good football right now.''
Smith, who won the Heisman in 2006 while playing for Ohio State, was on the practice field about an hour after signing his contract. He participated in Omaha's 90-minute workout at the Kroc Center in South Omaha.
"It was very, very, very hot,'' Smith said. "I wasn't expecting this. But it felt good to be out here. Jeremiah Masoli and Eric Crouch are very good quarterbacks, and I'm going to continue to learn and pick up as much as I can from those two guys.''
Omaha coach Joe Moglia said Masoli and Crouch, the 2001 Heisman winner from Nebraska, will continue to get the majority of snaps in the next few practices as Smith learns the Nighthawks' offensive system.
That's fine with Smith, who has played 20 games in the National Football League over the past four seasons. He said he has no problem starting at the bottom of the depth chart.
"I think as a quarterback you should humble yourself,'' Smith said, "and show your teammates and everybody around you that you're willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.''
In order to make room for Smith, the Nighthawks decided to waive quarterbacks D.J. Shockley and Daryll Clark. Shockley was a member of the Nighthawks in 2010, while Clark was a rookie out of Penn State.
"Those two guys did a good job for us, and either one of them could have been in the consideration for the third quarterback spot,'' Moglia said. "We just felt we needed to give Troy Smith an opportunity there.
"I was proud of the work Daryll and D.J. put in, and it wasn't a matter of getting rid of them. It was just having another option with Troy.''
Smith started looking for other options after being released in the offseason by the San Francisco 49ers. He started six games last season for the team, leading it to a 3-3 record while completing 50.3 percent of his passes for 1,176 yards and five touchdowns.
Smith signed with the 49ers after being released at the end of training camp last season by Baltimore, which picked him in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. He played 14 games over three seasons with the Ravens, starting two games as a rookie in 2007 but throwing just 13 passes in his last two seasons with the team.
Now, the 27-year-old quarterback finds himself in Omaha, trying to work his way back. Smith called the move a "no-brainer.''
"The call came, they expressed a deep amount of interest and I can do nothing but return the favor with my play on the field and my willingness to be a good teammate,'' Smith said.
Smith's positive attitude is a result of balancing the business of football with his love for the game.
"You get to understand that it's a business,'' he said. "The things that go on around you are things you can't shape. You can only shape what you do on a day-to-day basis, and for me that's just getting better as a man and as a quarterback.''
His attitude is remarkably similar to that of Crouch, trying to make a comeback in professional football after not playing since 2006. Two players who have won one of the sport's most prestigious awards now share a humble approach to their situations.
Moglia senses that, even in Smith's brief time with the team.
"They've each won a tremendous honor but now it's about getting the job done in 2011,'' Moglia said. "It's an honor that can never be taken away from them, but they need to focus on getting the job done here and now. And that's their attitude.''
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