West Texas rodeo performer is 'Joe Millionaire'

November 21, 2003

By Nicole C. Brambila

Flipping through the channels last year, Carla Smith got hooked on ''Joe Millionaire'' halfway through the season. Little did she know then the next "Joe Millionaire" would be her 24-year-old son.

The secrecy was tight. Days before her son's flight to Italy, David Smith still thought he was going on a show called "Dream Date," Carla Smith said.

"I was so surprised because everything was so secret," she said. "He didn't even know he was going to be 'Joe Millionaire.'"

In 'The Next Joe Millionaire,' 14 single women were hoodwinked into believing David Smith inherited $80 million. The show airs Mondays on Fox.

In an Oct. 20 Houston Chronicle article, David Smith said a casting agent spotted him at a rodeo. A few days later he faced somber Los Angeles producers in a hotel room thinking, "I may have to walk home or something."

He got the job.

His mom said she has had many long-distance talks with David Smith on his feelings about the show. David Smith is lonely in Hollywood away from the country and rodeo, Carla Smith said.

Recently they talked about the Nov. 3 show in which Linda, a 25-year-old Czech, asked to be eliminated after growing jealousy from the other girls on the show.

Filming, Carla Smith said, had to be stopped because David Smith began to cry.

"He really liked the girl and there wasn't a chance for him to find out if she could have been the one," Carla Smith said.

He has come a long way from earning $11,000 a year on the rodeo circuit and living in a double-wide trailer on his parents' Bellville property.

In the few weeks since his 'Joe Millionaire' debut, David Smith's done a blitz of publicity, including an appearance on 'The Best Damn Sports Show' decked out as Evan Marriott in a hard hat and construction clothes for Halloween and an upcoming spot on ''Hollywood Squares.''

All the media attention, mom insisted, hasn't gone to her boy's head.

John Michael Herrera, who played baseball in 1997 with David Smith at McMurry University in Abilene, agreed.

"Pretty much how he is on TV is how he is in real life," Herrera said.

David Smith might be the same, but Herrera had a difficult time believing his old college buddy was actually the new ''Joe Millionaire.'' Back then, David Smith was a second string pitcher and outfielder. But he was good enough to catch the eye of a Texas Rangers talent scout, which he later turned down because of a rodeo conflict.

"We'd all given our right arm to have an opportunity like that," Herrera said. "For him to choose to be in the rodeo - we'd of all done the Ranger thing, of course."

McMurry head baseball coach Lee Driggers said David Smith, who came from Midland Lee High School, played a season and a half with the Indians when the team garnered the 1998 Conference Championship. The program in '98, Driggers said, was only 3 years old.

"He would have remained a player for us had he remained with baseball because he had a lot of ability," Driggers said.

At the time, Driggers said, David Smith's heavy course load as a biology major and his rodeo interest factored in to him giving up baseball. David Smith later competed bareback on the rodeo team at Wharton County Junior College. The college's Web page identifies David Smith as 'Rookie of the Year' in 2000.

Indian teammate Jeff Byrd still laughs at the thought of David Smith on TV.

"You never think in a million years that someone you actually know would be on the brink of stardom," Byrd said.

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