BANGOR, Maine — John Smith suffered a severe injury late in his high school football career at Starr’s Mill High School in Fayetteville, Georgia.

He broke his femur, which is the thighbone.

“That took me off a lot of recruiting boards,” he said.

Husson University in Bangor did not eliminate him from its recruiting board.

“Coach [Gabby] Price called me and told me they like my [family] and would like to have me up here. That was it. Ever since I got here, I’ve loved it,” said Smith.

Smith’s misfortune turned out to be Husson’s good fortune because the junior running back is en route to becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher.

He rushed for 1,408 yards in 10 games in his first season en route to being named the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference’s Rookie of the Year and followed that up by gaining 1,733 yards in 10 games last fall to earn the league’s Offensive Player of the Year distinction.

He is averaging 6.02 yards per carry, has rushed for 100 or more yards in 16 of his 20 games and is just 451 yards away from breaking Julius Williams’ career rushing mark of 3,591 yards.

“He has speed and size and he uses both to his benefit,” said Norwich University coach Mark Murnyack. “I thought our guys did a great job on him last year and he still ran for 173 yards against us.

“He has great vision and he’s an extremely physical runner. He wears you out. He’s hard to tackle. He has the potential to be explosive on every play. He can run over you or make you miss,” Murnyack added.

“We don’t have the best job out there but he makes it fun,” said Husson senior center Jim Osgood from Bucksport. “Blocking for him is amazing. Seeing him take off down the field is an awesome feeling.”

“It’s an honor to block for him,” said senior tackle Jon Walker from Falmouth.

The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Smith has always been a running back since his days in Pop Warner football.

He said since he is a “bigger back, I like to get down and get dirty and run a few people over.

“But when I get out into the open field, I like to take it to the house,” said Smith who has scored 33 touchdowns to date.

He credits a lot of his success to the offensive line and his coaches.

“I’ve been lucky to have great offensive lines the past two years, a great offensive line coach [Nat Clark] and a great running backs coach in Coach Q [Nate Quirion]. That has helped me a lot and made my job a lot easier,” said Smith.

Smith said he feels stronger and quicker this season and he doesn’t concern himself with stats. His goal this season is to lead the Eagles to their second NCAA Division III Tournament berth in three years.

His mother, Shishony Brandon, is a major influence in his life.

“She watches every game [on the internet] and she sends me texts. She’ll tell me to protect myself,” said Smith, who has two younger sisters. “She can tell if I’m not feeling well or not having a good game.”

Smith considers Price among “the best coaches I’ve ever played for” and the feeling is mutual.

“He loves football. He has great passion for the game. He has a great personality. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like him,” said Price. “He has a lot of skill and he plays very, very hard. He’s extremely competitive.

“He has great running form. He has the right body lean. And he certainly knows where the goal line is,” Price added.

Smith had never been further north than Chicago before he came to Maine but when he arrived, the upperclassmen “made it easy for me to adapt to the culture in Maine.”

He admitted that adjusting to Maine winters “was kind of rough but now I love to go out and run in the snow.”

He can’t wait for the season to start.

“Every day we’re getting closer to game day,” said Smith.

Husson opens at Alfred (New York) University on Saturday, Sept. 3.