Saban: Andre Smith a "good guy" and player
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn't want NFL types to get the wrong idea about Andre Smith.
The All-America left tackle's college career ended with a suspension, followed by a decision to leave the NFL combine unannounced and the firing of his agent. Before all that, Smith was an instant star on the field who started at left tackle since his first game as a freshman and stayed out of trouble.
Saban is one of the Outland Trophy winner's advocates.
"I'm not lobbying for him, I'm just telling the truth," Saban said. "The guy was a good player for us and did a great job here and has got good character and a good attitude and a good work ethic and did everything we asked him to do."
Smith is still projected as an early first-round pick, possibly going as high as No. 6 to Cincinnati.
Smith had a different concern than most other top prospects in the final days leading up to the draft: finding a new agent. He hired Rick Smith of Priority Sports and Entertainment on Tuesday evening.
Smith had fired Alvin Keels earlier.
"My concern is what happens starting (Tuesday) night moving forward," Rick Smith said. "What we're staring at is a terrifically talented football player with the heart and desire to be something special in the NFL.
"He's working his tail off to get there."
The agent said he has laid out "a very disciplined plan" for his client. It includes being early to team meetings and hiring a nutritionist to help keep his weight down.
"I've explained to him everything it's going to take to be a star in the National Football League, and he responded beautifully," Rick Smith said.
Andre Smith was not available for comment.
He was roundly criticized by NFL pundits for his abrupt exit from the NFL combine without working out for teams.
"I just made a bad decision in leaving the combine," Smith said after the recent pro day at Alabama, which was attended by representatives from every NFL team. "If I had it to do all over again, I would handle it differently."
He had been suspended for the Crimson Tide's Sugar Bowl game against Utah because of alleged dealings with a sports agent. That didn't sour Saban on his former star.
"Hopefully people will realize that Andre Smith is not a bad person and is a good guy and maybe just didn't get great advice here in the last few months," the coach said. "And he'll prove to them that he is a very good player in the long run, which he is, and I'm sure he will do very well because he really likes to please the people around him and he's always been one to try to please his coaches."