Missouri coaches cut QB Brad Smith loose when they found out how good of a runner he was
(The 2006 NFL Draft is scheduled to take place on the weekend of April 29-30, during which nearly 300 college standouts will enter into the professional ranks. During the months of March and April, Buccaneers.com will run a series of features on these NFL hopefuls, taking a closer look at some of the names you'll be hearing on draft weekend. There is no correlation between the players chosen for these features and the Buccaneers' draft plans, and any mentions of draft status or scouting reports are from outside sources. Our next feature: Missouri quarterback Brad Smith.)
Brad Smith, the multi-talented quarterback from the University of Missouri, has a ready response for those scouts who think his best NFL position may be wide receiver:
It doesn't always work that way. Young men who dream of throwing passes on the pro level often shun the notion that they are anything but quarterbacks. Think Eric Crouch or Kordell Stewart (though the rise of "Slash" showed Stewart's willingness to mix it up). Smith, however, takes it as a compliment.
"It's flattering to hear people say they think I could play another position because of my athleticism," he said. "I'm a team player, so it would be something where, as I'm learning and helping the team out at quarterback, that I would maybe help somebody in that sense. I could look at it in a bad way, too, but if you're a good enough athlete to do some things and make plays, I try to look at things positively."
Don't get the wrong idea. Mixed into that mature response is a clear message from Smith that, no matter how much the scouts love his speed and moves, he still hopes to make a living with his arm.
"I'm a quarterback and I feel like I could be a great quarterback down the line in the league, with the opportunity to develop and learn a system," he said. "For me, it's something that I love to do and I've grown into. I love playing the position."
That's certainly reasonable. If you interview to be a chef and your prospective employers mention that they think you would also make an excellent waiter, that's no insult. But it doesn't mean you're going to give up on your dream of being a chef. Brad Smith might be willing to work the floor at times, but he still wants to be the creating in the kitchen.
He knows that Matt Jones and Antwaan Randle El have recently made very successful transitions from quarterback to receiver, and he appreciates the comparison. But he wants to try being Brad Smith first.
"We're different players," said Smith. "I'm aware of all the guys and all their situations. I just don't see myself in that sense. "In the way I think, in the way I play, I believe it is a little different than other guys. It's hard to put me in a box in that sense.
"It comes down to an individual. And me, as a person, and working at something your whole life and having dreams of doing something and being committed to be the best you can be at anything, that's something that's important to me. It doesn't matter what anyone else has done."
In the first quarter of Seattle's NFC Championship Game victory over Carolina in January, former Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace came into the game for the Seahawks and lined up at wide receiver. Wallace, who was an incredibly elusive runner for the Cyclones, ran a fly down the left sideline and starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hit him for a 28-yard gain down to the Panthers' 17. Carolina scored on the next play.
That was Wallace's only play of the game, but it was a big one. It didn't change his status as the Seahawk's second-string passer on the day, but it did help his team immensely. Smith could see himself in that situation, especially if his versatility could help the team.
"I will not turn people off and turn my back on people who say that I could be a receiver," he said. " I would be open to help my team out while I'm being developed as a quarterback. I'm a team player."
He showed that at Missouri. The soft-spoken Smith was not heavily recruited out of high school in Youngstown, Ohio. He committed to Mizzou and stuck to that commitment even after some more high-profile programs finally started sniffing around. The Tigers didn't even realize they were getting such a versatile threat, as Smith never put up enormous rushing totals in high school. When the Missouri staff realized that they had a true open-field threat on their hands, they adjusted the offense to make the most of all Smith's talents.
The results were eye-opening, to the point that there was some Heisman buzz around Smith entering his senior season. In his four years at Mizzou, he passed for 8,799 yards and ran for 4,289 yards, posting a combined 101 touchdowns. He even caught eight passes for 130 yards and another score.
The capper was a brilliant performance in the Independence Bowl, in which he led a stunning comeback to a 38-31 victory over favored South Carolina. Smith had a 124.3 passer rating in the game, completing 21 of 37 passes for 282 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and he also ran 21 times for 150 yards and three more scores.
That sent him into the pre-draft period on a high note, but it didn't necessarily erase the scouts' ambivalence about the best use of his talents. Despite that, Smith wouldn't have done it any differently.
"I'm a team player, and my team needed me to do that when it came down to it, to run the ball, and I was glad to do what my team needed me to do," he said. "Perhaps it wasn't the best to get ready for [the NFL] but my team needed that, so that's what I did."
Relatively shy and as unassuming as his name, Smith is a young man who believes in commitments, such as the one he adhered to at Missouri. He knew his mother wanted him to get his degree while in Columbia, so he finished his requirements early and is now working on a Master's in economics. He was also committed on the field, often arriving first and leaving last for workouts at Mizzou. He has had to prove himself as a quarterback several times over, and he's ready to do it again.
"It's always been something, a little bit of a chip on my shoulder for some reason," he said. "They doubted what I could do for whatever reason. It motivates me."