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Furness honors Sharif Smith

A Point Breeze native had his number retired by his football team following a statistically stunning career.

By Joseph Myers
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 22, 2011

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Sharif Smith used his speed to accumulate the fifth-highest career rushing total in city history. Many universities want him to make great runs for them.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Though he donned a prominent number and backed up its connotations with many end-zone appearances, Sharif Smith eschews arrogance. Success can test modesty, but four years of stellar runs and throws for Horace Furness High School, 1900 S. Third St., have not altered the humility of the former resident of 16th and Ellsworth streets. His accomplishments, though, have endeared him to his teammates and coaches, who retired his No. 1 jersey following Nov. 23’s inaugural South Philly Bowl at the South Philadelphia super site, 10th and Bigler streets.

Smith is the first Furness student-athlete to receive such an honor, and his career tallies place him among the city’s elite runners.

His 4,457 career rushing yards rank fifth-best in city history. He twice earned All-City designation and appeared four times on the All-Public teams. In a run-heavy offense, he still passed for 928 yards and 10 scores.

“I’m a leader but a quiet one,” the senior said last week at The Academy at Palumbo, 1100 Catharine St.

A sponsorship agreement lets schools lacking certain sports partner with more fortunate institutions, so Smith lent his talents to the Pennsport-based Furness Falcons while nurturing other gifts at Hawthorne’s Palumbo. The pact proved profitable for coach Anthony Pastore’s squads and culminated with the pre-Thanksgiving battle against Prep Charter High School, 1928 Point Breeze Ave.

“Holiday-related games should be local,” Pastore, of Broad and Porter streets, said of teaming with West Passyunk’s Huskies to make his star’s swan song a bragging rights contest.

Smith moved to Kensington at 12 and came to Pastore’s attention while a middle school defensive end, quarterback and tight end.

“I liked his desire to win,” he said of deciding to suit up for Pastore, the lone head man in the Falcons’ history.

Owning a similar mindset, Smith crafted a quartet of colossal campaigns. In 2007, his future comrades dumped all 11 contests in their premier year, but last month’s finale gave Furness a chance to tally his tenure’s 27th win. He scored from one yard out for his 50th career rushing touchdown and added a 22-yard gallop to paydirt.

Also a defensive back, Smith saw the Huskies even the affair late to force overtime. His final career rushing attempt resulted in a three-yard score, with the pressure immediately reverting back to him and the defense. With help from Bor Bor Kessley, a fellow senior back and All-Public AAAA Silver selection, Smith, also the owner of 12 interceptions, made a great tackle to secure a 20-14 victory.

“That was a big one,” he said of the stop he tabs a chief moment from his career.

Another milestone memory occurred minutes later, when Pastore and athletic director Dave Connolly presented him with a glass frame containing his jersey.

“I could not have accomplished anything without my teammates,” Smith said with his trademark humbleness.

The decision to honor the playmaker came easily to Pastore, who also serves as a Palumbo security officer.

“My easiest job is praising Sharif,” the leader said. “We figured retiring his number would be just one way to pay him back for putting the Furness Falcons on the map.”

The thought of placing his unit among the city’s elites once intimidated Smith, who struggled when attempting to motivate his fellow Falcons.

“I had to grow up fast, and I did,” the prospect said of summoning his resolve and guiding a system that relies on agile legs and minds.

This year presented a new task, as he inherited the full-time quarterback role.

“I had more pressure but enjoyed it,” he said.

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