Marcus Smith flying high after first-round selection

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMay 9, 2014 

Sitting among friends and family in Louisville, Kentucky, Thursday night, Marcus Smith knew it was possible his phone would ring.

On the other end of the line would be an NFL team. That call would signify one thing: Smith was a first-round pick.

Even with this scenario in mind, Smith admitted he was surprised when the Philadelphia Eagles took him with the 26th overall pick in this year's draft.

"I just want to be a part of something special," he said during his introductory press conference at the team's headquarters Friday afternoon, "and I know they have something special in this organization."

As thrilled as Smith was, others were not quite as enamored.

Both of ESPN's draft analysts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, deemed the pick a "reach." Some graded the pick more favorably, noting that since the Eagles were in need of a pass rusher, Smith's selection wasn't as shocking as it appeared.

That did little to appease some Philadelphia fans, who believed their team chose a player it could have taken in the second or third round. The discussion reached critical mass on Twitter, with Smith's name trending in the United States after his selection was announced.

When asked about the vitriol, Smith wasn't flustered. He just wants a chance to prove himself.

"I would just tell them to sit back and just relax. I feel like I can be a great player, especially under these vets that we have this year," he said. "We have great outside linebackers here and I just want to be able to learn under them. I can come in and contribute to the team. Even though I wasn't projected high, it's not all about what people project. It's about what the coaches and the GMs think of you. I'll try not to let anybody down, but I just want to come in, work hard, be successful and just help this team win."

And while he'll have to win over a reluctant Philadelphia fan base, Smith already has two big supporters in his corner: coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman.

Earlier this week, Kelly made a call to Charlie Strong, Smith's coach at Louisville. Kelly wanted to know if Smith was worth of a first round selection. When Strong gave Kelly a rave review, it was a done deal.

And Kelly was delighted they were able to get Smith even though they traded down from pick No. 22 to No. 26.

"I think his ceiling is very, very high. We're excited," Kelly said Thursday night. "He's a tough, hard-nosed football player. A little bit new to the position. Maybe a similar situation to Lane (Johnson) in terms of you're getting a guy that is a huge upside because he hasn't played the position that long. They played multiple defenses there. He's played with his hand on the ground, he's played standing up. He can drop into coverage, he can rush the quarterback. We're excited about adding him."

Roseman also was thrilled to add the former Hardaway star.

The GM couldn't say enough about Smith's intangibles: His competitiveness. His determination. And most importantly, his work ethic.

"That's part of what we're trying to have here," Roseman told the Eagles' team website. "We're trying to have people who aren't just happy to get into the National Football League, but what are they going to do when they're here? He's going to work at it. He's going to come every day and work at it. He's going to do whatever it takes to be a better player. We have the right support system starting with the coaching staff to get it out of him."

How soon that will happen, Smith didn't know. He didn't want to put a timetable on such things. In a self-assessment, he acknowledged that he has to set "a firmer edge in the run game." That's how you go from being a situational defender to one who plays every down.

Given a little time, Smith assured he'll develop into just that.

"I'm going to work hard and the vets that are over me, I just want to come in and learn under them," he said. "I think that once I learn from them, that's when my game will probably (show) up."

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service