Smith goes from scrap heap to starring role for Lions on Sunday

Lost in the madness of Week 11 was a real-life version of "The Walking Dead" that unfolded in Detroit.

The "walker" -- to use parlance from the hit AMC series -- was Kevin Smith, a forgotten part of the Lions' dark ages who came back to life in Sunday's 49-35 win over the Carolina Panthers.

On NFL Network
"NFL Replay" will re-air the Lions' 49-35 win over the Panthers on Tuesday,

Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. ET.

Smith was selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Lions, but a series of injuries derailed his career and led to Detroit not offering him a new contract in March. Facing depth issues in their backfield, the Lions re-signed Smith on Nov. 7, and the 24-year-old responded with the best game of his career against the Panthers.

Smith was a terror for Carolina defenders, rushing the ball 16 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns while adding four catches for 61 yards and another score. It was a stunning performance for a player on the NFL scrap heap just three weeks earlier.

After the game, Smith spoke about how he stayed ready while out of work.

"Wake up at 7 o'clock in the morning, train 'til 12, go home and play with my son, go to sleep," he told Mlive.com before repeating, "wake up at 7 o'clock in the morning, train 'til 12, go home and play with my son."

The rise of the Lions has been one of the NFL's best stories this season, and now Smith -- a rookie on Detroit's 0-16 team in 2008 -- can claim some responsibility for it. We don't know if Smith will continue to get opportunities in Jim Schwartz's offense, but his big afternoon served as a reward for a player who didn't give up on his NFL dreams just because others gave up on him.

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