Devin Smith doesn't know which category he's going to fall into when the NFL Draft resumes today with the final four rounds, but the former Wisconsin defensive back is simply hoping for a chance.
Smith was not invited to the NFL Combine, but did the 40-yard dash, L-cone and position work for scouts at UW's pro day in early March. He got positive feedback on most of his drills, but said his nerves got the better of him on his 40-yard dash time causing it to be slower than normal; a factoid that has kept him off many experts' mock drafts.
"Once I settled down, I think I was able to perform to my abilities," said Smith. "I was surprised I wasn't invited (to the NFL Combine) but I believe that everything happens for a reason. I got an opportunity to showcase my abilities."
Had things gone according to plan, Smith would have been waiting for his name to be called in the 2012 draft. Finally winning back his full-time starting job out of Wisconsin's 2011 fall camp, Smith was trending upward at the start the season, coming off a six-tackle performance against UNLV.
As quickly as his season started, Smith's season ended after breaking his foot in week 2, forcing him to take a medical redshirt that forced him to watch his team win a conference championship and advance to the Rose Bowl for the second straight year.
"It really opened my eyes that everything could be taken away from me just like that," said Smith. "I just wanted to go out there and give it my all, 110 percent, every single time. I didn't want to have any regrets at the end, and I felt like I played my best season thus far and set myself up for the next level."
Having no setbacks during last season, Smith set a career high in tackles (57), pass defended (17) and interceptions (four). He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the media and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.
In a way, Smith believes the injury gave him a better chance to be a football player, thus making him a more attractive option for a NFL team.
"I think just showing my ability to make plays on the ball a lot more this year, getting four interceptions and double digits in the pass breakups," said Smith. "I also think my awareness and just becoming a smarter football player are two things I am really improved on from last year. I also think my maturity helped make me a better football player this year."
As he made his rounds to different NFL teams, Smith tried to emphasize his play and his ability to bounce back from adversity.
"I just told them I am a hardworking person and I always tell them that I am always going to give my all, no matter what," said Smith. "I see myself as a perfectionist, so I am going to get mad at myself if I am not doing something right. I just want to go out there and be the best competitor I can be on the football field."
Smith is one of several Badgers seniors – along with Marcus Cromartie, Shelton Johnson, Mike Taylor and Ricky Wagner - that are hoping to hear their name called this afternoon. Of that group, only Wagner's name consistently appears in experts' mock drafts of being selected in the fourth or fifth round.
Wherever Smith lands, he will carry with him the memories of a special five year career at Wisconsin.
"I am going to carry the relationships I built with the coaches and my teammates," said Smith. "Just the brotherhood that you have being here, it's different once you leave here. Those memories from the locker room, the field, outside the locker room, being around each other every day will shine. It's a close bond that will never break."