Former Moanalua player shot in New Mexico
Una Smiley had planned to surprise his family by coming home for the holidays after a successful second season of football at Palomar (Calif.) College.
Instead, the all-state lineman from Moanalua High School is spending the semester break recuperating from gunshot wounds that may have ended his football career.
While on a recruiting trip to the University of New Mexico last weekend, the 20-year-old Smiley was shot multiples times in the legs after leaving an Albuquerque strip club with three members of the Lobos football team. Two of the bullets remain in his left leg, which has a fractured fibula. And he suffered nerve damage in his right leg that left him unable to control the movement in his foot and toes.
He is wheelchair-bound, with doctors recommending that he keep weight off his legs.
"Like they say, wrong place at the wrong time," Smiley said in a phone call last night from Oceanside, Calif. "I don't want to come back home until I can walk like I used to walk, run like I used to run, play football like I used to.
"I start my rehab in a few weeks and my New Year's resolution is to get back to where I was before this happened."
And that would be back on track for a Division I scholarship. Smiley, a two-year starter at left tackle for Palomar, was recently named to the second-team J.C. Grid-Wire All-American Team and earned first team All-America as voted on by the California Community Colleges Football Coaches Association.
The 6-foot-6 280-pounder had orally committed to Oregon State but was honoring his recruiting visits, which had included San Diego State, Arizona State and, lastly, New Mexico.
According to a story in yesterday's North County (Calif.) Times, Smiley and three UNM players were involved in an argument with two men inside the strip club. The argument continued outside and one of the men pulled out a handgun and began firing at the SUV driven by Lobos tight end Clayton Cardenas, a teammate of Smiley's at Palomar in 2005.
Last night, Moanalua football coach Arnold Martinez said Smiley told him he got into the SUV and wasn't involved in the argument. Smiley was the only one who was shot, although Cardenas was treated for glass that bruised his eye.
Albuquerque police estimated that 17 shots were fired.
On Friday, UNM coach Rocky Long suspended Cardenas, Justin Clayton and Michael Tuohy from the team and the players will not participate in the inaugural New Mexico Bowl on Saturday against San Jose State. Long told the Albuquerque Tribune that he waited a week to suspend the players from practice because he wanted to hear more details from Albuquerque police.
"I needed to confirm exactly what they did wrong before making a decision," Long told the Tribune. "They made a big mistake here, and I can't say enough how grateful I am no one was hurt much worse."
Long has offered Smiley a scholarship, regardless of whether he can play football. Smiley said he wants to go to Oregon State ... and play.
"I've talked to Coach (Mike) Cavanaugh and he said they'd hold my scholarship," Smiley said of the former Hawaii offensive line coach who is now at OSU. "They still want me to play for them. That is very encouraging because I liked Oregon State, it was my top choice.
"I'm going to be doing a whole lot of rehabbing and a whole lot of praying. Football is what's going to take me there."
Smiley didn't begin playing football until his junior year at Moanalua. Martinez said last night he challenged Smiley to come out for the team "and he became our most inspirational player that year."
"I'm in shock right now. The doctors wonder if there's permanent damage. But he's a tough kid, a fighter. I told him he can accept what they're saying or work for what he wants."
Smiley was an academic nonqualifier out of high school but is on track to graduate this spring with his AA degree in sociology. He said last night the injuries had forced him to miss finals this past week, but he was confident he'd make up the course work.
Smiley's mother, Janice, said her youngest son was very traumatized but was "hanging in there."
"He still cannot walk," Janice Smiley told the Star-Bulletin last night. "Two of the bullets are still in him. When I talked to him, he said he was sorry he made me cry."
The Albuquerque Tribune and North County Times contributed to this report.