Smith overcomes adversity to make it to NFL

Facing an uphill battle is something Baltimore Ravens fourth round draft pick Marcus Smith has gotten used to during his life. The wide receiver has experienced both multiple family tragedies as well as the struggle to find a spot on his college football team, but the one constant that enables him to succeed is his strong will.

Smith, from San Diego, California, has experienced numerous deaths in his family from an early age, according to ESPN. When Smith was just nine years old, in a seven month span, his oldest brother, grandmother and uncle all died. Several months ago, Smith's mother also passed away.

"I know what pain is, and unfortunately, I've had a lot of experience dealing with it," Smith said in an article written by ESPN. "You learn to keep moving forward, to keep believing. That's what my mom taught me. I saw what it did to her when my oldest brother was killed, but she didn't quit on me.

"I'm not going to quit on her and quit on the dreams she had for me."

At Morse High School, Smith was a talented football player and sprinter for the track and field team. In football, he played both running back and safety and was a first-team all-league tailback and second-team all-league safety. He also ran the 100 meters in 10.7 seconds and competed against Saints running back Reggie Bush in track and field with each splitting head-to-head victories (Bush was a fellow San Diego area high school football player and runner). While he was a sports star in high school, he also made the honor roll for academics.

After high school, Smith went to the University of New Mexico to play football. He redshirted his first season and was a backup running back for the next two years. Smith finally broke through as a starter in his junior season when he switched to wide out. Smith was third in the Mid-Western Conference in receiving yards with 859 and second in the league with nine touchdowns. His teammates honored him as the Most Improved Player.

The following season, in Smith's senior year, he thrived at his new position – catching a school-record 91 passes for 1125 yards. He led the MWC in both categories and was named first-team all-conference.

Smith also helped lead the Lobos to a 9-4 record and beat Nevada in a bowl game for their first postseason victory in 46 years. Furthermore, he was nominated for the FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award for his "perseverance on and off the field."

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome described Smith as a tough player which reflects how he has led his life.

"He's got good size; he's almost 6-2," said Newsome. "[He's a] tough guy, blocks really well, catches the ball in traffic and is very physical."

Despite Smith's numerous accomplishments on the field as well as his determination off the field, scouts questioned his speed and what his role would be in the NFL. However, that did not stop the Ravens from selecting the strong-minded receiver in the fourth round of the NFL draft at pick 106.

"We felt like we wanted to bring a physical receiver and a bigger guy in here to compete for balls inside the numbers," said Newsome after the selection of Smith. "He's been a great special teams guy… and an outstanding gunner at New Mexico. I think he can compete and add a lot of value to the team and should be a great [special] teams guy for us."

Smith, who always draws strength and the courage to succeed from the tragic events in his life, may have finally met the dreams set by his late mother. And that determination and perseverance will keep his dreams alive in the NFL.

Hank Nathan is a guest columnist for Ravens Insider and a journalism student at Washington & Lee.

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