As a redshirt freshman at Arizona State, he showed his immense potential with touchdown receptions of 62 and 37 yards.
Then came a seemingly limitless run of bad luck. Smith caught 10 passes during his Arizona State career, which was derailed by an ankle injury that cost him all of 2007, a torn hamstring that limited him to one game in 2008 and a torn ACL that cost him all of 2009. Given a sixth year of eligibility, Smith caught just one pass as a senior.
Invited to participate in the inaugural Eastham Energy All-Star Game, which was played at Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium, Smith finally put it all together. In an all-star game so small of scale that official statistics were not kept, Smith topped 100 receiving yards, had a 54-yard reception and a 15-yard touchdown catch, and was named the offensive MVP.
Smith (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) parlayed that strong performance into an outstanding pro day workout, with a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, a 40-inch vertical jump and 19 reps on the bench.
He went undrafted in 2011 but signed with Carolina, only to never get a shot because of an eye infection. Midway through training camp, he signed with Seattle but didn't make the final roster.
Smith was out of football for a year, then returned to Arizona State for its pro day in 2012. While there, according to agent Steve Weinberg, Smith struck up a conversation with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who tried to bring Smith to USC to play cornerback. Carroll suggested Smith return to his high school roots and play cornerback. It was sage advice coming from Carroll. Arguably the top cornerback in the league is Seattle's Richard Sherman, who was a star receiver at Stanford before a knee injury and subsequent move to corner.
Smith spent 2012 making the position switch, working out at Fischer Sports in Phoenix with Will Sullivan, who is one of Darrelle Revis' trainers. He participated in the NFL's regional combine in Seattle, and did well enough there to get an invite to the super regional combine in Dallas.
Scouts were impressed but, with no college film of Smith playing cornerback, not impressed enough to offer a contract. The Packers brought in Smith as one of 27 tryout players at last weekend's rookie orientation camp. An imposing figure at cornerback with his size and an intriguing prospect with his athleticism, the Packers signed Smith to the 90-man roster this week.
Coincidentally, one of the players Smith will be battling for a roster spot is Loyce Means. It was Means who stole the show at that all-star game, scoring touchdowns on an interception, fumble return and blocked field goal. Means' story is even more remarkable, as his signing stemmed from bumping into Packers scout Alonzo Highsmith at an airport in Memphis.
As a cornerback, Smith is a developmental prospect, to be sure, but his size and speed make him an interesting candidate to play immediately on special teams, whether it's covering kicks or as a possible return threat.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.