His mother told him that he’s named after a French island. And that’s apropos, considering the third-round pick out of Florida Atlantic University will be trying to make a living while playing on an NFL island, as the saying goes.
Smith is typically a low-key guy, but says if there’s a time when he likes to talk, it’s on the practice field. Smith says he’s not much for trash talk in games — why give an opponent any added motivation? — but engaging teammates to develop intense rivalries is part of the game he enjoys.
His NFL initiation in offseason training activities provided plenty of “Oh, snap!” moments. That’s bound to happen when a rookie plays like one and gets schooled by the likes of wide receivers T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief or Phillip Dorsett.
“I have a lot of ‘Oh, snap!’ moments,” Smith said. “Next thing I know, ‘D.J.’ ‘I know, coach. I got you. My fault.’”
It’s part of the learning process, especially for young cornerbacks. And it helps for cover guys to have short-term memories, too. Learn from the mistake, but don’t dwell on it.
Smith, 22, insists he’s understated, doesn’t do much in social media, is a devout Christian and isn’t one to go out much.
He’s all about football, and wanting to prove he’s worthy of some playing time on a roster that has three established cornerbacks in Pro Bowl star Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and nickel back Darius Butler. The Colts recently re-signed Butler, but they also used a high pick to get Smith. The team is obviously thinking beyond 2015, which is a contract year for Toler, who probably won’t be re-signed because the Colts have other more pressing contract issues to resolve next offseason.
“When it comes to running, I can run,” Smith said. “But we have some fast guys.”
He refers to rookie wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, the Colts’ first-round draft choice, as “my boy.” They’ve known each other for years. Dorsett is from Fort Lauderdale.
“You kind of get adjusted to it when you go up against so many fast guys,” Smith said. “If the guy is not as fast, you adjust to it.”
Offseason workouts are without pads with a focus on developing the mental aspect of the game. For Smith, that has meant understanding the different cornerback roles as well as the terminology, formations and on-the-fly adjustments.
“More so for me, it’s just learning, learning different techniques, learning what they want from you, just running to the ball,” he said. “It’s more of a mental game in the NFL. You can have talent, but if you’re mentally not there, you can have all the talent in the world and not make the play.”
Smith is the first cornerback the Colts have drafted in the initial three rounds since Southern California’s Kevin Thomas was taken in the third round in 2010. Thomas didn’t last more than two seasons in the NFL. But the year before him, the Colts drafted Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers in the third round. He played well for the Colts for four years and is about to begin his third season with the Arizona Cardinals.
Smith sounds confident about how he’s picking up the Colts’ defense, and in addition to the wide receivers, he’s getting by with a lot of assistance from other friends.
“It’s easier when you’ve got the veterans helping you out,” Smith said. “Also, when you’re going through it with a couple of other rookies, you’ve got (safety) Clayton Geathers, he’s playing numerous amount of positions for us as a rookie just like I am, we help each other out. We help each other learn the plays.
“There’s (linebacker) Amarlo Herrera (sixth-round pick), who also has to know the playbook. All of the young guys, we try to stick together and learn it. The veterans help us, too, (linebacker) D’Qwell Jackson and (safety) Mike Adams.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.