MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When DeVonta Smith decided to return to Alabama for his senior season, he didn't imagine also this.
A Heisman Trophy. A bushel of school and conference records. And a special place in school history.
"It's been unique and unforgettable," Smith said in a video conference with reporters this morning, just hours after Alabama beat Ohio State 52-24 for a national title.
"Everything that's been happening from my freshman to senior year are things I'll never forget."
Smith emphasized that he didn't return for the individual honors.
"Just that the Heisman wasn't something that I came back for," he said. "I came back to get a degree and to win a national championship. That's why that meant so much to me, why I was just so happy about it. Two main boxes that I wanted to check off, I checked off."
He added that he didn't want to leave Alabama without his degree.
"Eventually you're going to have life after football," Smith said. "Football is going to end one day. You're going to have to find something else to do.
"I just wanted to get my degree, so hopefully when I'm done playing I can end up coaching or training athletes."
Smith's last game was something to remember. He missed almost all of the second half of Monday's national championship win because of a dislocated finger. The injury happened at the start of the third quarter, but he still finished with 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
"He really dislocated his finger," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I told Smitty after the game, I said, 'You're the only player that I know that missed a whole half because of your finger.'
"It was dislocated and they couldn't get it back in. If they'd have got it back in, he would have been fine. He actually wanted to play, we just didn't allow him to."
The 12 catches are a record for the College Football Playoff finals. His 215 receiving yards are a record for one half of a championship game.
"He's a great competitor," Saban said. "I heard somebody say he set some kind of record in the first half of the game. Heavens knows what he would have done if he played the whole game.
"But you're talking about the ultimate warrior, ultimate competitor. I'm so happy for him that he was recognized as the best player in college football because I don't think anybody's done more for their team than he has for our team."
Smith finished his career as the SEC's leading receiver for yardage (3,965 yards). His 235 career catches are first in Alabama history.
He scored three touchdowns against Ohio State, which gave him 46 for his career.
"I don't know if I've seen one better than that," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. "He just seemed to create a lot of separation. He's obviously very fast. He plays stronger than he looks. He's not a very big guy, but his play strength is significant.
"He just eats up ground down the field once he gets those strides going. Tremendous ball skills, Heisman Trophy winner and well deserved. He's a great player."
Ohio State's Shaun Wade had said before the game that he wanted to cover Smith. He didn't have much luck.
"Really they just gave him the ball in open space and he made plays," Wade said. "He's a great player and they had a great scheme. They just made plays."
When Smith was asked about Wade saying he wanted to cover him, Smith said, "Well, I mean, I just practiced hard all week, just worked, came to do my job. It just worked out well for me and the team."