Akili Smith

Position: Quarterback


  • Lincoln High School (San Diego) (Class of ’93)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates minor league teams (baseball) (1993-1995)
  • Grossmont College (1995-1996)
  • University of Oregon (1997-1998]
  • Cincinnati Bengals (1999-2002)
  • Green Bay Packers (Tryout only, 2003)
  • Frankfort Galaxy (2005)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Offseason/Practice squad, 2005)
  • Calgary Stampeders (CFL, 2007)


  • Full name is Kabisa Akili Maradufu Smith
  • High School All-American from a high school that also produced Marcus Allen and Terrell Davis
  • Threw for 3,763 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior at Oregon
  • Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year
  • Third overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft

Smith graduated from high school in 1993, but couldn’t pass the SAT, making him ineligible for college football. Instead of going to a junior college, Smith decided to pursue a professional baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played three seasons in the Pirates minor league system, two with the GCL Pirates (Rookie) and one with the Erie Sea Wolves (short-season A). He hit .176 in his three seasons with the Pirates organization. (Akili’s Minor League Statistics)

After just three years in minor league baseball he returned home to San Diego to give football a try at Grossmont Junior College.

Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan agreed Smith made the right decision to play football:

“Well you can just see it. Just a flick of the wrist he can throw the ball 55-60 yards downfield, no effort. “You can see the arm strength. You can see he doesn’t have to wind up. He can make a throw that only a great athlete can make.”

Akili had a rough start at Oregon. He was briefly suspended after near-failing grades and several run-ins with the law (assault and drunken driving, both ended up being dropped) before returning for his remarkable senior season.

In 1998 Akili threw for 3,763 yards and 32 touchdowns. He was also a threat on the ground, rushing for 72 yards on 8 carries against USC. His outstanding season earned him Second Team All-America honors and he was named Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year (along with UCLA’s Cade McNown).

Smith’s breakout season had NFL scouts gushing. He had become one of the top quarterback prospects in the NFL Draft:

CNN/SI NFL Draft Central 1999: Teams like QB Akili Smith

New York Times 1999: Potential #1 Pick: Smith

The Sporting News: A Hot Commodity

You can watch Akili Smith’s Scouting Video at: CNN/SI

Here’s a neat story the Cincinnati Enquirer did on Akili and his pops.

Smith is considered one of the biggest NFL busts of all time. Before the draft, the New Orleans Saints (then-coached by Mike Ditka) offered Cincinnati 9 draft picks (several in 1999 and several extra in 2000) for the Bengals’ #3 pick. The Bengals declined several trade offers by the Saints and kept the #3 selection, ultimately taking Smith.

Smith missed large periods of 1999 pre-season training with the Bengals due to contract disputes; many pundits later speculated that his absence from this short training period hurt him immensely in the seasons to come. Despite impressive showings of athleticism in his early games, he failed to grasp the Bengals playbook fully, and never established himself with the team. He only started 17 games in his career with the Bengals.

(Smith throwing his first career touchdown to another RFP: Carl Pickens)

Smith started 11 games in 2000 throwing for 1253 yards, 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The Bengals had the NFL’s worst passing game and scored a franchise-low 185 points. Smith lost his starting job to Scott Mitchell after the 10th game that season, when the Bengals finished 4-12 for the second straight year. The Bengals were 2-8 with Smith as the starter. Smith and Mitchell finished with almost identical passer ratings — Smith at 52.8, Mitchell at 50.8.

The demotion apparently upset Smith because he refused to talk to reporters the last six weeks of the 2000 season.

Two months later in February 2001, Smith was arrested for drunken driving for driving the wrong way on a one-way street at 2 a.m., putting his future with Cincinnati in doubt.

Maybe he should of been reading a playbook like Jon Kitna instead of pouting….

Smith’s career statistics

Smith described the four years he spent with the Bengals as “hell” in a 2002 Cincinatti Enquirer article. The article also includes a timeline of Smith’s career with the Bengals.

Smith was cut by the Packers in 2003.

Wikipedia on Akili’s CFL career:

In 2007, Akili Smith signed a two-year contract with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, where he was expected to compete for the starting quarterback job with another former NFL player, Henry Burris. After a fairly underwhelming debut in an exhibition against the Edmonton Eskimos, Smith played extremely well in the final exhibition against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Though listed going into the game as the third-string quarterback, Smith completed three touchdown passes in only a half of play, including one to former NFL player Marc Boerigter.

In his first regular season action, replacing Henry Burris in the 2nd quarter on July 12, Akili struggled mightily against the Toronto Argonauts. He finished 6/10 for 63 yards, 0 TDs and 3 interceptions. He also lost 1 fumble. Smith was pulled at the end of the half.

After an unimpressive showing against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on October 8, 2007, going 4 for 12, for 37 yards, along with the impending return of a healthy Henry Burris, the Calgary Stampeders released Akili Smith on October 10, 2007.[1]

Photos courtesy of:
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Akili Smith to Tony Hartley:

Akili Smith to Jed Weaver:

Don’t Start Rookie Quarterbacks:

>>Return to RFP Homepage


2 Responses to “Akili Smith”

  1. Independent Liverpool FC Website

  2. Love the Sports Illustrated issue picture. The headline could have read “Pick of the Litter: Which Future RFP do the Browns take?”

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