Witnesses say spray wouldn’t have deterred Alabama lineman’s charge.
TUSCALOOSA –– Two children were injured Tuesday, one seriously, as Alabama tackle Andre Smith emerged from hibernation to begin his annual summer forage for food. In a separate incident later in the evening, a man was seriously burned when his recreational vehicle overturned and caught fire after being caught between the lineman and Johnny’s Pub and Grub on Fourth Street.
The first accident occured when an eight-year-old girl and her five-year-old brother wandered near the edge of the woods behind their family’s house, where the 330-pound junior had likely been lying for months in a seasonal state of inactivity and metabolic depression characterized by lower body temperature, slower breathing, and lower metabolic rate. Both were taken by ambulance to DCH Regional Medical Center.
Sometimes unaware of his own surroundings when food is near, Smith has been known to injure even members of his own pack.
What To Do If You Encounter Andre Smith in the Wilderness
Whenever you travel in Crimson Tide country, you have to accept the basic reality that you may encounter a 330-pound lineman. If you are in open country, use binoculars to scan the horizon. In more forested environments, be sure to make lots of noise and keep a mental inventory of climbable trees (just in case). Remember, Andre Smith is surprisingly agile, and has also been known to climb short distances up trees. To be safe, you should look for trees that will allow you to get at least 10 m (33 ft) above the ground. Don't forget that Smith can charge up to 40 yards in 5.28 seconds, much faster than the average human. You'll need some time to climb that tree.
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According to the children’s 31-year-old mother, who watched with horror from the back window of the house as Smith’s gargantuan shadow fell over her helpless explorers, the girl was trampled and the boy thrown at least ten feet as the lineman charged toward the still-raw ground chuck just tossed onto the family’s grill. Upon reaching the meat, she said, Smith burned one of his paws on the grill’s scalding metal surface, let out a loud bellow, and lumbered away toward the road to the east.
"We’re always taught to reach for our old can of Gene Stallings Lineman Spray," said the woman, who asked not to be identified by name but said she had watched her father ward off a similar attack by John Copeland in 1992 with the distinct blend of capsaicin and thousand island salad dressing. "But he was so big and so determined after the kids disturbed his den, he would have only mauled me, too.
"Once he caught the scent of that meat, nothing could have stopped him."
Less than two hours later, another man suffered serious burns on his upper body when he collided with Smith outside of the popular wings ‘n things restaurant just west of the University of Alabama campus, instantly crushing the front end of his Honda ATV and consuming both vehicle and driver in a spectacular wave of flames as the undeterred tackle growled loudly and continued inside, according to witnesses. Police reported the ATV burned to the chassis, creating a large plume of smoke that frightened Smith away when he re-emerged about an hour later.
Animal control officers responding to the call were able to hit Smith with a tranquilizer as he fled, police said, but to no apparent effect. His exact whereabouts were unknown as of press time, though authorities said given the lineman’s surprising range, all wings, chicken, steak and barbeque establishments in the northwestern sector of the state and possibly northeast Mississippi should remain vigilant.
"Anyone encountering Andre Smith should freeze and begin slowly backing away in a non-threatening manner," said Doyle Moon of the Alabama Wildlife Federation. "Please give him the widest berth possible. If he does attack, cover your head and protect your internal organs." Despite their obvious physical advantages and many opportunities, linemen Smith’s size normally avoid contact with people. Even so, Moon said, they can be extremely dangerous. Aggressive behavior in tackles is favored by numerous selection variables. Unlike the smaller players such as linebackers, fully grown linemen are too large to escape danger by climbing trees, so they respond to perceived threats by standing their ground and sometimes lashing out -- or "firing out" -- at their attackers.
"We could be dealing with the most overpowering left tackle I’ve ever encountered," Moon said. "And I helped subdue Chris Samuels."