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Smith, who allowed just 2 1/2 sacks, also was part of the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team.
Not bad for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, right?
That slide to the third day of the draft has proved to be fuel for Smith, who wants to make the other 31 NFL teams pay for passing on him.
Smith, who is 6 foot 6 and 329 pounds, joined the “J-Mart and Ramon” radio show in Nashville, and talked about that motivation.
“Sometimes that’s definitely a thought that goes in my head,” Smith said. “I talked to you, Ramon (Foster), I think it was the Orange & White Game (at Tennessee). You were telling me, play with a chip on your shoulder. Let them feel you every time. Those teams that came down to it, there’s no hate because at the end of the day it’s business. But at the end of the day, I know who I am as a player and I want them to know what they missed out on.”
Smith, who played at the University of Tennessee, was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs in 2018, and that may have scared some teams away from drafting him.
But he’s thrilled to be with the Chiefs.
“You just have to trust God’s plan. That was the first thing, I just had to trust Him,” Smith said. “Obviously, a lot of things didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. Like you said, I couldn’t end up in a better situation, a better organization, a place that can develop me and my growth there. I’m just really excited about it. Really excited that I landed there because I could’ve landed in a worse situation.”
Smith spoke with the radio hosts on a number of topics, and here’s what he said about Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill’s departure, the wild playoff win over Buffalo and what makes Andy Reid such a great coach.
Tyreek Hill trade
Smith was caught off-guard by the trade that sent star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. But he can’t blame Hill for seeking the big payday ($130 million, four-year contract).
“Yeah, the coaches are gonna do what they think is best for the organization and for the team. And I can’t blame Tyreek; he’s getting paid,” Smith said. “I’ll never blame a guy to get paid but he’s got to do what’s best for him. I’m really excited to see what he does in Miami, wishing him well.”
Smith said he was blown away by Hill.
“I love watching Tyreek. He’s one of the coolest dudes to watch on the field. I’ve never seen someone move like that. The attitude, demeanor, the swag he brings on the field, it’s fun to watch, man. It was fun to be around.”
Despite losing Hill, Smith has confidence in the Chiefs’ front office and the team it has assembled for the 2022 season.
“I think our front office does a fantastic job. I think we have one of the best front offices in the league,” he said. “I think they did a fantastic job in the draft and really reloading so we’re ready and set up, in a good position this year.”
On the AFC West
While much of the attention about the AFC West has focused on the four great starting quarterbacks, Smith took note of all the moves teams made on the defensive side of the ball.
Smith will now be lining up against the Chargers’ Khalil Mack, Raiders’ Chandler Jones and Broncos’ Randy Gregory.
“It’s gonna be extremely, extremely competitive,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of parity in the league in terms of how close games are finishing and I guess the amount of d-lineman in the AFC West alone, it’s gonna be a great challenge this year. Something that we’re up for, but it’s going to be a great challenge. I mean, they really stockpiled a lot of talent all across the board.”
On Chris Jones
Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, who is 6-6 and 298 pounds, made an early impression on Smith.
“I walked into OTAs and I remember watching him just sort of do a couple of drills. He’s so big,” Smith said. “Someone that big’s not supposed to move that well. And then going into training camp last year, just thinking about it, hearing the stories, (people saying,) ‘He’s gonna make your life miserable.’ Just stepping up to that challenge but working against Chris ... you’re not gonna find many d-lineman better than that.
“So what a blessing it is to be able to play against them day after day after day in training camp and get better.”
On coach Andy Reid
Smith was asked about what it was like to play for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
“Coach Reid, he’s awesome man” Smith said. “One of the best coaches I’ve ever played for. A great man. A man of his word, and he’s very fair on what he does. But when it’s time to work, you’re gonna work, and I always respect that about him. And honestly, it’s a blessing to be able to play for someone like that, a future Hall of Famer, a legend. It’s been a great experience.”
Smith said he used to play Madden NFL 06, and the intro was from Super Bowl LX which shows the Eagles playing the Patriots. Philadelphia’s coach at that time was Reid, so it’s surreal to Smith to be coached now by the real-life Reid.
“I remember seeing him, he’s the coach on the sideline (in the video game),” Smith said. “It’s crazy. At the end of the day, I get drafted, and here he is in a meeting room, sitting next to him, being coached by him, but it’s a great experience.”
On Patrick Mahomes
The conversation turned to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, in whom Smith said he has complete confidence.
“We’ve all seen him make just crazy throws, crazy reads, but I think the thing that always stuck out about Patrick is the type of person he is,” Smith said. “Humble. He’s a leader. Does the right things on and off the field every time. Great dude. I can’t ask for more in terms of a leader, and just being able to play with him, walking with Pat I know we have a chance. It’s my job to keep him clean and give him a chance.”
Smith’s first memory of Mahomes was the Chiefs’ 54-51 loss to the Rams on “Monday Night Football.” Mahomes threw six touchdown passes that night.
“That was a crazy performance. And then through the University of Tennessee, through a program we have with our sports management program, I was able to actually work the 2019 Super Bowl,” Smith said. “I was in Miami, I watched the Chiefs play and win So then being able to get drafted and boom, I’m here walking in the complex, at practice with the man.
“Watching it in person is a whole completely different thing. ... When you turn on the tape and look at the film, how he gets it done is what blows your mind. Behind-the-back passes, underhand it’s crazy to watch. He’s uber talented, but he’s a great human being a great person, a great leader.”
Smith talked about the Chiefs’ 42-36 overtime win over the Bills in an AFC Divisional playoff game in January and how impressed he was with Mahomes and Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
“I think that’s the biggest and definitely the best game I’ve ever been a part of while playing,” Smith said. “It’s something special to watch. Two people that are elite at their craft go back and forth at it, and that was a great duel between them. But playing with Patrick, I assure you, there’s gonna be another opportunity out there, there will be some more (great games) in the future.”
Unsurprisingly, Smith was asked about the Chiefs’ 13-second drive to force overtime.
“One of the biggest takeaways I have from that game, and one thing I was just the belief, how calm we all were on the sideline. We all knew the job we had to do. We knew the situation presented to us,” he said. “The coaches did a great job laying out a plan we go over every week. We just went out there and executed.”
Here is the entire conversation with Smith.