"Andrew Luck, RG3, and Russell Wilson changed the expectations for anyone playing quarterback," said West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, expected to be the first quarterback taken in April's NFL Draft. "But I think what set them apart was that they were leaders from day one. That's what I took in watching them. It doesn't matter your age or experience. They have set the bar high."
Regardless of where he goes in the draft Smith will feel the pressure because he will be declared someone's franchise guy at the game's most important position. It's a quarterback driven league and Smith feels like he's up to the task.
"I am looking forward to the challenge," Smith said. "It's a blessing to have this opportunity, to step into the NFL. I am a dedicated and have a passion for hard work and to be the best I can be."
Smith, 6-foot-3 and 220-pounds, scorched college football over the first half of the 2012 season. Then, the wheels feels off the Mountaineers and they went on a five-game skid. Really, it was the defense that failed the team in Morgantown but Smith will tell you it was about the team playing inconsistently in their first season in the Big 12.
"We came out red hot," Smith said. "We were in a new league and wanted to prove ourselves. But we got on that bad streak and played inconsistently. But I was the first one that stood up in the locker room and told the guys to keep our heads up and to keep working. I have that position of being the leader."
Smith still had a very big year, finishing with 4,205 yards passing, 42 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Most experts feel he will be the first quarterback taken in the draft.
"The only expectation I have is to come in as polished as I can be," Smith said. "I am going to compete and be a competitor. It's what I do. I know I have the skill set but I have to continue to grow. I played in three systems in college so it was hard to adapt. But I have always been capable and have the skill set to play in any offense."
Many teams need quarterbacks. The Bills and their General Manager have already stated that he wants to select a franchise quarterback. They pick No. 8. Jacksonville and Cleveland need a quarterback. So does Kansas City and the Chiefs hold the first pick. How would Smith respond to being selected first overall by Andy Reid and KC?
"I never met Andy," Smith said. "But I have watched him and look forward to meeting him. Of course I would love to be the No. 1 pick. I am the best player and I want to make that clear to him and everyone."
Much has been made with Smith electing not to play in last month's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Smith still feels it was the best decision for him.
"At first glance I was ready to compete," Smith said. "But I have people in my corner that give me advice that I hold dearly and they basically told me not to go. I have plenty of time to answer all the questions and work out. There is no pressure and I feel confident in my ability. I am not being cocky. I know I still have to grow.
"I don't think I have a glaring weakness but I know I have to work hard to better myself in every aspect of my game each and every day. I have to improve."