Brad Smith is entering his eighth year in the NFL and is the most versatile player in the league right now.
For some reason, it’s easy to overlook people with multiple skills, while those with one dominant skill set are exalted.
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Brad Smith is the most versatile player in the league right now.
He is far too humble to ever say that (perhaps the most humble person I’ve interviewed in 13 years of interviews), but it’s true.
In college, he was one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in history, leaving the University of Missouri with every conceivable offensive record, including both the all-time rushing yardage and total yardage records.
As a pro, Smith scored 14 career touchdowns in five different ways. Quick- think of one thing you can do in five different ways successfully. I know, man. I couldn’t think of anything either.
I spoke with Brad this week about his time at Men’s Health as an intern, stupid kickoff return rules we both dislike, Russell Wilson and Eric Mangini versus Rex Ryan.
Paulie E: How did the internship at Men’s Health come about?
Brad Smith: It was cool. My publicist Eddie put it together. I hooked up with the fashion and style department and meet the fashion editor get to know him what he does and kind of how the whole staff works
What was it like to be so dominant in college?
Uhhhh thanks for the compliment….I don’t think I was. We did some good things on the field, made some plays but you’d have to ask somebody like Vince Young who won a championship, Ricky Williams, guys like that, who won award and the Heisman trophy. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time- learned a lot about myself. Met some people I have great relationships with today. So that’s the biggest part I cherish the long lasting relationships, rather than football.
Since you’ve been in the league we’ve seen an evolution where a QB who can run, like a Russell Wilson type, has become really valuable. Why do you think that’s happened now and what started the shift since you got into the league?
I think there’s always been this type of player in the league, it’s not new- you’ve always had guys like Fran Tarkenton, Steve Young, Randall Cunningham and other guys like that who have had a lot of success. Players like that are hard to find and I think that’s a big part of it where colleges are going to the zone read- that’s not all that these guys can do. You can be multi-dimensional and people start saying, “hey they have to defend this, and then this.” Then, their running back gets more yards in the hole because they’re worried about this. It’s all about scheme, man.
In your pro career you’ve been used in a myriad of ways- wide receiver, quarterback, kick return, running back, special teams- is there a way that you visualize yourself as a player?
It’s been crazy experience going on eight years now- because it’s always something new. First, I come in, work at receiver for a few plays, then I go to running back, coach calls a few plays, did that. Then go to quarterback and work on those plays. Then I will hear the coach say, “Hey can you return kicks?” So, I tried that. Then its special teams tackling and blocking. So I just got an appreciation for the entire game but just want to make sure I help the team. There’s no play that doesn’t matter- every play matters. I don’t know how to look at it any other way than that I’m just a football player who wants to win and get a Super Bowl championship.
Are you in five times the meetings during the week that a normal player at one position is in?
No, not really. You just learn how to multitask as far as your assignments. You have special teams meeting then you go get your assignment. Then I go to offensive meetings and get specific plays at QB. It’s not like I have to read the coverage all the time, it’s just on certain plays, or I read the fronts scheme I see on the defensive side. So there are certain things I know when I’m pegged down, I need to look for and make a check and things like that; I get those adjustments from the coaches. So, it’s not too bad.
One thing I don’t like as a fan are the new kick return rules- it’s taken a lot of fun out of kick returns. How do you feel about that?
I feel the same way. It’s definitely added a drag to the game. About half the time now the ball is going out of the end zone and if it doesn’t most teams don’t bring it out deep. You’ve got a lot of teams that do bring it out. You’re going to see more and more teams just taking a chance and bringing it out.
Does that enter your mind when you’re fielding a kick- “OK, I’m seven yards deep”. Or do you look at the blocking in front of you and how successful it is?
The way we do it in Buffalo, he (special teams coach) gives us certain yards where we have to, “if it’s deeper than this you stay in. But if it’s not, you can bring it out.” It was tough at times because you want to make a play and bring it out every time. But coach didn’t want you to do it, so you just put the team first.
What’s it been like to go from the media “Mecca” of New York, to the Buffalo media scene?
It’s been cool, actually. In New York there are 30-40 media people in the room. In Buffalo, there’s 10-12, if that. It’s cool. It’s a different setting here, a different vibe, people are more relaxed.
With the Jets you had a 106 yard kickoff return for a TUD, the longest in franchise history. What do you get more exhilaration out of; that, or a 32 yard scamper for a TUD?
It doesn’t matter to me (laughing, presumably because of the way a 33 year old man said the word “TUUUD“). If it’s running, blocking a kick, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is did I do something to help my team win, that day.
With a new coaching staff coming to Buffalo, have you gotten any insight into how things will be operating next year?
No, not really. At this point with the new rules, they can’t have communication with us to that point. Basically just came in and said “Hi”, introduced themselves, that’s all they can do until we get to work next Tuesday.
Do you want to play QB more?
I’m always a quarterback first; it’s what I’ve done my whole life. And I have fun doing it, but I’ve done all kinds of stuff. Whatever they ask me to do is what I’m going to do. That’s how I look at it man- whatever I can do to help the team win is what I will do.
With the Jets you were there from the transition between Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan- what was that like?
It was a good transition, the support group they have there is unbelievable from the training staff to the strength staff at the time- they all made it a smooth transition. Coach Mangini- I learned stuff I still use to prepare for games to this day from coach Mangini. He was one of the most detail oriented coaches I’ve ever been around. Rex gets you to play and let it loose 100% so you don’t have to think, I picked that up from Rex. We’ll see how it goes with coach Marrone.
Brad started a charity in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio called “Brad Smith True Foundation 16”. Check out the website at www.Truefoundation16.org. And give Brad a shout on Facebook and Twitter– Do it NOW!