NFL Draft Q&A: WR Marcus Smith

In addition to his great talent as a wide receiver, New Mexico's Marcus Smith is looking forward to playing special teams in the NFL. Find out why he loves that role, what he thinks separates him from many other receivers in this draft, and more in this exclusive interview with's Ed Thompson.

Ed Thompson:  Walk us through your experience since the Senior Bowl...

Marcus Smith:  The next thing that happened was the Combine.  I was just preparing for that up until then down in Florida.  I didn't do as well as I wanted to, but it was a lot better than some people thought I would do.  I came back out and had my Pro Day on March 6th and from there I've just been training and getting ready for draft day.

Thompson:  You're a guy that can make the clutch catches in crowded areas, is that something you take a lot of pride in?

Smith:  Definitely, that's toughness I've gotten from training out in New Mexico. That's something the coaches try to put on us.  You know you're going to get hit nine times out of ten, so you might as well make the catch because they're not going to let up just because you dropped the ball.  That's what I try to take into it and lots of times I come out with the catch.

Thompson: How much of that ability to do you credit to your strength?

Smith:  I think I attribute that just to the work we do in the weight room in New Mexico.  Coach puts us through some rigorous stuff just to get us ready for the defense.  I like the weight room a lot more than some other guys.  I like to block, I like the physicality of the game.  That's what I feel separates a lot of the guys from myself at wide receiver — the ability to make the tough catches, make the downfield block, and make the little extra plays that having strength helps with.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Thompson:  You also have a good reputation for yards after the catch...

Smith:  The fastest way to the end zone is a straight line.  When I first came to New Mexico I was a running back, so I credit a lot of my yards- after- the- catch ability to that. Once I got the ball I just tried to look and read things a little bit more than I guess I would if I was just a straight-up wide receiver.

Thompson:  Has your ability to contribute on special teams been coming up a lot in conversation?

Smith:  Definitely, a lot of the coaches like that.  That was my way of getting on the field my first couple years at New Mexico, so I embrace special teams.  I like doing it. It's the one time I get to hit the guys who hit me.  A lot of times it's DBs or safeties back there catching the balls, so I try to lay into them a little bit more because they've been hitting me all game.  I take pride in that. Playing well on special teams can change the game to a plus or minus.

Thompson:  Do you also see yourself competing for a kickoff return spot?

Smith:  Absolutely, that's what I want to do. I don't know how the coaches will feel about that or where they want me, but I'm willing to do whatever they need me to do.  I'd love to get a chance to do that against the best teams in the league.

Thompson:  What did it mean to you to be a team captain?

Smith:  It was huge.  It was something I hadn't expected — not to say I wasn't a leader on the team — but that wasn't the type of guy I tried to portray myself as.  So being elected captain was a shock and it made me take more responsibility in what I did.  Even though I was already the type of guy who was always in the front of the line and making plays in practice, I was coaching a little bit more and leading by example — not doing the things I knew the coaches wouldn't want us to do or would be bad for the program.  It helped me to come into the meeting rooms a little bit more, put a little more emphasis on studying the team, and that's what I tried to do for the younger guys on the team.  I tried to help them come along as much as I could and that's what I embraced it as.

Thompson:  You sound like you can be pretty hard on yourself. How do you find the positive balance with those emotions?

Smith:  I definitely feel that I'm the hardest on myself and that's how it's supposed to be.  If the coach pushes you harder than you push yourself then something's wrong.  You have to be internally driven.  If I make a bad play or feel I could have done something more, I wear my emotions on my sleeve.  I'm not afraid to show if I'm angry or happy or upset, and that's what you get from me.  I may be a little more down, a little more upset, but I wouldn't say less focused — because I'm still going to go out there and get the same job done.  I look at it as you get the emotional side of me, but at the same time you still get the same production from my catching ability, my blocking ability, or my next assignment.  It's just me letting myself know I need to step it up this next play.  That's how I mentally coach myself on the field.

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Thompson:  What are you most proud of from your college career?

Smith:  Being named the captain and getting a PAC-10 win, winning a bowl game for the first time in 46 years.  There have been a lot of things that have helped this program along, I feel the guys who were here before me, they laid the groundwork for guys like me to get the recognition.  Now we have to keep going.  We have to leave our own legacies and I feel that's our biggest contribution to the team.  I hope we continue to be bowl eligible, continue to win big games, and continue to prove people wrong.

Thompson:  What do you think went well and where might you have helped yourself at your Pro Day?

Smith:  I didn't plan on running, so that was the biggest thing for me.  I knew I didn't run as well as I wanted to, but coming back I thought, "OK your numbers were what they were."  I'm going to try to come out there and run routes, look a little more fluid coming in and out of my cuts, that's what I worked on for the last few days coming into my Pro Day.  My coach talked to me and said you should think about running the 40 again, and I thought about it and decided that day that I would run.  I brought it down to a 4.4, or whatever it was, instead of a 4.5 so I definitely helped myself with my size and my height and my ability to block.  I feel me running the 4.4 helped me tremendously. 

Thompson:  Is there anything else you want to add?

Smith:  It's been fun.  I wouldn't want to do it again, but I've definitely enjoyed the experience.  It was definitely mental and physical, like they said, and I didn't even realize it until the last couple days.  I was like, "Wow this really was a drain, I feel much better getting done and getting away." But I enjoyed every minute of it.  I loved training with the guys, meeting people, and being in Pensacola.  I definitely want to go back there and train, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and anybody that gets the chance should do it, even though it was definitely a grind. But if you're of the faint of heart, I wouldn't recommend it at all.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at You can contact him by email through this link.

Scout NFL Network Top Stories