Small-School DE Could Be Late-Round Find

Jared Smith had a big senior season at New Hampshire and a big performance in the Texas vs. the Nation all-star game.

In three of the last four drafts, the Green Bay Packers used a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick on a defensive lineman.

One possibility for this year would be New Hampshire's Jared Smith, who the Packers had a formal interview with at the Scouting Combine.

Smith (6-3, 302) was named first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association and third-team All-American after a senior season in which he led the team with 10 tackles for losses and tied for the team lead with four sacks and two forced fumbles. He also led the team with three blocked kicks. Selected to the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game, Smith tallied two sacks.

Smith grew up in Greencastle, Pa., and committed to play across the border at West Virginia. When then-coach Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan, Smith bolted, as well. He considered enrolling at a junior college but instead chose FCS powerhouse New Hampshire.

"I regretted it for a while, especially when I was a freshman, but I was always told that things happen for a reason," Smith said. "I would never change my decision. If I could go back and do it over again, I would still go to UNH. I love it. The people there are just absolutely amazing."

Smith wasn't an instant star. After redshirting in 2008 and playing as a reserve in 2009, Smith emerged as a starter down the stretch in 2010. As a junior, Smith registered 2.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for losses and a blocked kick.

Smith, who joked that he was double-teamed "92.25 percent of the time" as a senior, ran the 40 in 5.08 seconds and put up 28 reps on the bench at the Combine.

New Hampshire, despite reaching the FCS playoffs the past nine seasons, hasn't exactly been churning out pro prospects. Since Chicago selected Jerry Azumah in the fifth round in 1999, only one New Hampshire player has been drafted: Corey Graham, also by the Bears, in the fifth round in 2007.

"We had a guy named Brian McNally, who was on the Redskins for a while but didn't make the team because he got hurt," Smith said of McNally, an undrafted linebacker who spent camp with Washington last summer. "He was the only guy. We had Corey Graham, who I've spoken to a numerous amount of times."

The road to the NFL became tougher when Smith had his change of heart about West Virginia. The dream, however, never died.

"It's always been a real dream to be where I am," he said. "Being where I am now, it makes me focus that much harder, knowing that I'm just that much closer to making it. People just need to learn how to stick with their dreams. You can't give up. There are times when I was thinking about giving up but I didn't give up and I stuck with it, and I'm here now."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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