”It’s pretty simple; they tell you you’ll go in the first round, the second round or stay in school,” Smith said. “They told me to stay in school. But I followed my gut because I had two goals. My first was to get a degree and I did that at Penn State. My second is to play in the NFL. That’s my dream.”
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Smith, 6-foot-5, 335-pounds, believes his time at Penn State has really prepared him for the professional ranks, especially all the adversity he and his teammates faced in Happy Valley.
”Penn State made me what I am today,” Smith said. “What happened at Penn State helped make me the man I am today. We had so much adversity and it was not easy. There was so much thrown at us. I had to adopt. We learned different schemes. We had new head coach, new offensive coordinators. Each staff was different but you learned from everyone. I think I can say I learned a lot of different things.”
Smith spent two seasons with Billy O’Brien. He left the Nittany Lions for the Houston Texans. This past season he played for James Franklin. He says the two are both great coaches but they do things much differently.
”Coach O’Brien is a true NFL coach,” Smith said. “He taught me hard work. He taught us things that he did in the NFL. And considering what happened here he did an outstanding job. He prepared me mentally and physically. I was ready on game day. He and Mac McWhorter (offensive line coach) were just great. I am what I am today because of them.
”Coach Franklin was terrific too. He’s a true college coach that really gets after things. And he loves recruiting. They ran different systems and I learned so much from both.”
Still, this past season was a big transition. Not only was the Franklin regime new but Smith all of a sudden became the grizzly old veteran of the Penn State offensive front.
”I was the only guy returning as the starter,” Smith said. “So many guys would come to me and ask me these little things about playing the game. We had a young line and went through growing pains. And for me, I am more of an action guy not a vocal leader.
Now Smith is preparing for April 30, the NFL Draft. He played in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. and now he’s in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine.
”I guess I project as an offensive tackle,” Smith said. “But I know I may end up playing guard. I think my versatility is an asset. But I know I have to improve. I have to play with better technique in the NFL. I have to be better with my hands. I will do whatever the coaches tell me to do. I have been working hard with my speed, strength and flexibility this off-season.
”At the same time, with all that I have been through at Penn State, I know it will help me. I had a lot thrown at me the last three years. I adapted and picked things up quickly. I performed and I play with confidence. These things will all help me in the NFL.”
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Part 1 - Daddy, where are NFL players from?
Part 2- Where do student-athletes major in the NFL?
Part 3 - Drafted vs Undrafted Players
Part 4 – Positional Breakdowns of the NFL: Where are they from?
Part 5 - NFL Veterans: Where are they from?
Part 6 – Top NFL Producing High Schools