Before They Were Pros: Harrison Smith

Harrison Smith ended up being a first-round safety for the Vikings, but back at the NFL Scouting Combine he was touting his versatility, coverage ability and leadership capabilities.

On the two safety positions …
"I really feel comfortable at both spots. I did both things at Notre Dame, and there's (not one I perform better in over) the other."

On sizing up the draft for safeties …
"I've met all the guys now, and friends will take some exception and say, ‘This is what so-and-so said about you,' and stuff like that. But I really, throughout my whole college career and even now, I try not to get caught up in all that, really, because at the end of the day I can only control what I do."

On which part of his skillset he thinks helps him cover fast NFL tight ends …
"That's something that I think I'm good at, and that I can bring to teams, is the ability to cover tight ends man-to-man. It's something I did throughout my career. In practice I got to go against Kyle Rudolph, who was a high draft pick last year. This past year I went against Tyler Eifert, and he'll be picked next year. So just being around good competition and going up against it every day in practice."

On what he can do to slow down these tight ends …
"There's a difference when you're dealing with a guy that size, like all these tight ends are. They're tall, they can run, they're agile, they've got big hands, they can run, and they can catch everything. There'd be times in practice when I'd have Kyle covered, but he'd still catch the ball, just because he's so big you can't get around him. So it's really just about body position."

On comparing the coaching styles of his two Notre Dame head coaches …
"Our schedule with coach (Charlie) Weis was different than it was with coach (Brian) Kelly. As far as I know, it reflects more of an NFL type schedule. So I think that's prepared me ... and just the way everything was run — practices, team meetings, workouts, stuff like that."

On other of his strengths …
"I think I'm a versatile player. And on top of that, I'm a guy who's going to be able to get the defense lined up, recognize formations, make checks and just communicate the defense."

On whether the transition to Coach Kelly hampered his career arc toward the NFL …
"I really wouldn't know how to answer that question. I think just as a player I progressed and matured, and just took the coaching, whoever was coaching me, and tried to be the best player I could be."

On his role model NFL safeties …
"Of all times, Steve Atwater. My previous coach always told me I needed to play like (him) and look up to him. And I remember watching him when I was young, making that hit against Green Bay. He's a guy I've always admired."

On what compelled him to return to Notre Dame for a fifth year …
"There really was no decision. In my mind I was just 100 percent coming back unless they wouldn't let me."

On how he matches up against wide receivers …
"I feel like in certain schemes you're going to be asked to do certain things. And you're going to have help in certain areas, over the top or wherever. So you just have to know what you're doing, and at the end of the day I feel like that's something I excel at, so I'll be able to put my body in the right position to make an impact on that play."

On whether as an NFL rookie he'd feel comfortable lining up veteran secondary members …
"Yeah, and I'm not a guy who tries to bark out orders and stuff like that. That's not how I'd play, especially as a rookie. … But I'm confident in my ability to learn a playbook, to understand offenses, and then as a safety your job is to get the defense aligned, so that's just part of the role."

On whether he is offended by assessments saying this is not a good safety class …
"Like I said earlier, I can't change what people think. I can only do what I do."

On defending against Andrew Luck …
"He's got it all, you know. He can obviously throw, and make all the throws. He makes all the checks at the line. But then on top of that, he got outside of the pocket a few times and he can run. So he's got it all. He's a big, athletic guy."


Viking Update Top Stories

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They're tall, they can run, they're agile, they've got big hands, they can run, and they can catch everything. There'd be times in practice when I'd have Kyle covered, but he'd still catch the ball, just because he's so big you can't get around him. So it's really just about body position.\" \"Our schedule with coach (Charlie) Weis was different than it was with coach (Brian) Kelly. As far as I know, it reflects more of an NFL type schedule. So I think that's prepared me ... and just the way everything was run — practices, team meetings, workouts, stuff like that.\" \"I think I'm a versatile player. And on top of that, I'm a guy who's going to be able to get the defense lined up, recognize formations, make checks and just communicate the defense.\" \"I really wouldn't know how to answer that question. I think just as a player I progressed and matured, and just took the coaching, whoever was coaching me, and tried to be the best player I could be.\" \"Of all times, Steve Atwater. 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