TAMPA — The Storm's Chris Smith bends at the waist and crouches slightly as the receiver who is in motion, with a 10 yard head start, charges toward the line of scrimmage. Smith gets into his backpedal quickly and mirrors his opponent's every fake.
No double teams.
No safety over the top.
Nowhere to hide.
"You're pretty much all alone out there," Smith said. "You have to just try and play what you see and do the best you can out there."
And Smith's best has placed him squarely in the conversation of top defensive backs in the Arena Football League.
"What Chris really excels at is putting himself in the right position to make plays," Storm coach Lawrence Samuels said. "His preparation is outstanding, and he has taken advantage of those opportunities."
After picking off eight passes in his 2013 rookie season, Smith enters tonight's home game against Spokane tied for first in the league with six interceptions despite missing last week's loss at Orlando. He also has returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown and scored a touchdown off a botched onside kick.
"From Little League on up I've always had my hands on the ball," Smith said. "Now that I play defense, I still have the same mentality —get my hands on the ball and make something happen."
He also has had the chance to suit up with his twin, Donald, for the first time since the duo roamed the backfield at Palmetto High. Donald is a rookie defensive back for the Storm.
"It's an amazing feeling to be able to play professional football with my twin," Chris Smith said. "Really, it's a one in a million kind of thing."
Smith was recruited by Northern Illinois but told the coaches he wanted his brother to have a chance to walk on the team. After attending community college, Donald did walk on at NIU but because of various injuries, the two never played on the same field at the same time.
"I can just look over at him and we know what each other is saying," Chris Smith said. "Sometimes I just give him a little hand signal or something and that's all we have to do to communicate. We're almost always on the same page."
As a team, the Storm is struggling to get on the same page. Smith said this year's version "is much better" than last year's 7-11 squad, but at 3-3, Tampa Bay has to overcome inconsistency. The Storm looks to break a two-game losing streak and move past .500 against Spokane.
"It seems like when our offense is there our defense isn't and vice versa," he said. "We have to find a way to put it together in all phases right form the start of each game. But there is no question we have the talent to do it."