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Smith looking ahead to NFL career

Smith’s playmaking ability makes it hard for the Jets to pass on former MU star
Monday, May 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:28 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sitting around his Youngstown, Ohio home on Saturday afternoon, Brad Smith waited for the call.

Watching the draft, and taking breaks to watch movies, he caught up with his immediate family. The first three rounds were announced, and there was no mention of his name. Although he was anxious and excited, Smith was able to get some sleep that night.

Sunday morning rolled around, and Smith was hanging out with his girlfriend and brother while they were killing time before heading to church. Less than 30 minutes into the draft, however, Smith got the call on his cell phone.

It was New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini. He told Smith that he loved Smith’s playmaking ability and said that he would love to have him as a part of the team.

When the Jets selected him in the fourth round at pick No. 103 overall, Smith said it was the day he had waited for all his life. The Jets officially selected Smith as a wide receiver, but said they might use him as a running back or quarterback also.

“I was really excited when I saw my name pop up,” Smith said. “Ever since I was young, I watched the draft. It was unreal seeing my name on there.”

Once the pick was made public, Smith said his phone was ringing off the hook. He said that he wasn’t able to call anybody else because they all had already called him.

Following his selection, ESPN’s NFL analyst Merrill Hodge said that even though Smith was “the man” at Missouri, he still had work to do to be an everyday NFL player.

“The talent is there,” Hodge said. “But it’s all about how he adjusts to the position change.”

Smith, who’s dream to be a quarterback took a shot by joining the loaded Jets, said he still thinks things could work out for him. The Jets glut of quarterbacks include: starter Chad Pennington back from a shoulder injury; Brooks Bollinger who is back from duty last year; Patrick Ramsey, who was acquired from the Redskins for a seventh-round pick; and Kellen Clemens, a second-round pick who led Oregon to an 11-1 record last season.

“I think I can learn and develop as a QB while at wide receiver or running back,” Smith said.

Smith was quick to point out that despite the Jets’ numerous candidates, all of them have questions coming into the season.

Pennington has been unable to stay healthy over the last two seasons with shoulder injuries that have many experts questioning whether the injuries will cut his career short. Bollinger, a former sixth round pick fromWisconsin, struggled last year in an attempt to replace the injured Pennington and departed Jay Fiedler. Bollinger only threw seven touchdowns while surrendering six interceptions. Ramsey was an underachiever in Washington, never living up to the hype of being their 2002 first-round pick. Clemens has had durability issues, going down with ankle injuries his junior and senior seasons.

Smith said that with this group, he definitely has the chance, but that he needs to “make the best of every opportunity” in order to become a starter.

“I believe in myself and my abilities,” Smith said. “Whatever happens, happens. I’ll stick with that.”

The St. Louis Rams almost drafted Smith, but he was passed over because coach Scott Linehan thought Smith still wanted to be a quarterback. Smith said he wasn’t the kind of guy that takes things like that personally. The Jets and Rams don’t play in the 2006 season.

That ability might come in useful when Smith joins the team for their minicamp in two weeks in Hempstead, NY. In the NFL’s top media market with some of the league’s most passionate fans, Smith knows he will immediately be under scrutiny.

“I’m just going to focus on what I need to do,” Smith said. “New York’s a big media market, but I understand how people work. I don’t think it’ll be any problem.”


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