Jump to content

Andre Smith, OT


Recommended Posts

Smith looks to redeem his status

By Elizabeth Merrill

ESPN.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Forget marriage, or graduation, this is his biggest day ever. Mom is here, in a freshly pressed gray suit, praying, because she does that at least three times a day. "You look great," she says. The agent is here, eyes darting from his BlackBerry to a corner patch of AstroTurf. Team Andre is over there, back behind the ropes, yelling, "Run, 'Dre, run!" And here's the best part: Several dozen middle-aged men in khakis are here, with stopwatches and clipboards, to see what Andre Smith is made of.

"Jello," is what some pundits and wise guys eventually will type, and the early reviews are mixed. But Smith is undaunted. He plants his hands into the grass, tilts his head up and runs. Where he's going, nobody knows.

And so ends pro day at the University of Alabama, or, as many have called it, Andre Smith's Last Chance. Twenty-two years old, and Smith is supposedly as volatile as Wall Street, soaring and strong one moment, crashing and broke the next. On Feb. 19, he was an Outland Trophy winner and a lock to be a top-three draft pick. Then he left the combine unannounced, and the red flags flew.

He has been called everything from soft to unmotivated to a head case who might have squandered $24 million. Every day brings a new crack, every move is magnified and dramatized.

"It's been brutal," says his agent, Alvin Keels. "Sometimes you lose focus of what made him a special player to begin with, the fact that he had three years of great football, that he's been a leader and a model teammate.

"Now all of a sudden … he left the combine a little early and the [question] is, 'Can we trust him as a professional?' That's kind of taking it to the extreme."

But that's the NFL, which is essentially 17 weeks of extreme. Within an hour of Smith's big workout in front of roughly 50 NFL types, reports flow in that it's a bust, that Smith made a fatal error by running shirtless.

There go a few million more.

A good family

Money never poured out of the Smith house. They carved out a decent life for their four children in Birmingham, Ala., Andre Sr. running a car-detail shop and Nesa toiling for the postal service. Every Sunday, they gave at the collection plate, then met Pastor Steve Green after church with an extra dollar on good weeks and a hug when times were tight.

"We don't have much," the Smiths would tell Green, "but just want to let you know how much we appreciate you. Go get a Pepsi-Cola or some chips."

Young Andre came from a good family, his pastor says, and just about everyone in town knew where he was headed. He was in sixth grade when he walked through a prayer line and Green asked his life's goal. To be an NFL player, Smith said.

Around that same time, Smith chose his position, left tackle, because that's the spot that commanded the most money. And when the kid introduced himself to his future high school coach one night at the Golden Corral, 13 years old, 6-foot-2 and a ribeye away from 300 pounds, it all seemed to make sense.

"That's a big kid," Curtis Coleman, the old coach at Huffman High, thought as he eyeballed Smith for the first time. That's a future NFL lineman. His life, for the next eight or nine years, seemed as easy as his laid-back demeanor. He was graceful enough to charm women on the dance floor, smart enough to stay on course, and mean enough to make teenage defensive linemen shake in their cleats.

"We used to do this finisher drill," Coleman says. "And he learned early on that the quicker he pancaked someone, the less he had to work. You could tell it was a lot more to him than just blocking a guy. He pretty much wanted to dominate the guy."

Recruiting gurus dubbed him one of the most dominating offensive linemen in a decade. Everybody, from USC to LSU, wanted Smith. On signing day, with an entire state watching, he casually pulled out a hounds-tooth hat that his mother bought. He was staying in Alabama.

He wasn't supposed to start as a true freshman. He leveled 70 knockdown blocks and led the Tide by being on the field for 831 plays. He wasn't supposed to dominate. A YouTube clip called, "Andre Smith is a MAN!" collected more than 140,000 hits. It showed the freshman demolishing an Arkansas tackler.

Three years, and his NFL résumé appeared impeccable -- two-time first-team All-SEC, consensus All-American, and just one sack in all of 2008. Smith, half joking but mostly serious, compared Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson to his mother. He couldn't bear for either to get hit.

"He's tried to do everything right," Nesa says. "Our children have been trained about protocol, doing things in order.

"His biggest flaw? Let me think about that. Sometimes, he might be too nice. And someone might take advantage of his kindness."

Draft status

But there had to be flaws. Just as the mock drafters were sliding him in at No. 1, shipping him off to dreary destinations like Detroit or St. Louis, Smith's cracks started to show. In late December, days before the Sugar Bowl, he was suspended for violating team rules. Various media reports said he was sent home for improper dealings with an agent, something Smith and his family deny.

More than six weeks passed before Smith finally hired Keels. They met on Super Bowl Sunday, and, as Keels says, "instantly clicked." He signed Smith on Feb. 12, one week before the combine. Under the new "junior rule," Smith wasn't allowed to have contact with an agent until Jan. 19.

"That's not a lot of time for an athlete and agent to build that kind of chemistry," Keels says. "For the combine, I'm not making any excuses, but that's kind of an example of the junior rule hurting the player. You've got to think that the average senior probably signs with an agent right after the bowl game, sometimes in December.

"By the time the combine rolls around, you have plenty of time to prepare. You have that trust level with an agent. Andre and I were a little different. I signed him, and he was at the combine a week later. It didn't give us a lot of preparation time."

What happened next has been the biggest story of the 2009 draft so far. Smith showed up for the combine last month, draftniks said he was out of shape, and then an announcement was made inside Lucas Oil Stadium that a 332-pound lineman was missing. Had he told someone he was leaving, that he was taking a 6 a.m. flight to meet his trainer, maybe the late-winter fodder would've been focused on Matthew Stafford's arm or Michael Crabtree's foot screw.

But Smith's draft stock was plummeting, and he felt the thud by late Saturday morning, when his cell phone kept ringing in an Atlanta gym. He was oblivious to the scene unfolding in Indianapolis.

"If I had to do it over again," Smith says, "I would've handled it so differently. After the criticism started coming out, I stopped listening to it and just continued to work out."

But it opened him up to criticism as steep as the Smoky Mountains. Various reports suggested Smith was immature and ill-prepared for the rigors of the NFL. Some said his weight shot as high as 370 -- Smith says he's never tipped the scales at more than 345.

He won't deny that, like many linemen, he's struggled with his weight. Last summer, he joined the "Big Boys Club," a group of Alabama players who got up at 6 a.m. to work themselves into better shape.

He has been working out three times a day for more than a month in Atlanta. Chryste Gaines, a former gold-medal sprinter, critiques his running form. Tyrone "Ropeman" Felder, who has worked with the likes of Ray Lewis and Laveranues Coles, is imploring Smith to push harder.

"He's a hard worker," says former Alabama linemate Antoine Caldwell. "I know he's caught a lot of heat lately, but he's a great person. One of the best teammates I've ever been around."

The stigma

Two young university PR workers stand outside the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility, peeling credentials away from a pile of black string. About 40 media members will be allowed in, and others are out to avoid a crush. Last year, pro day was a rather hum-drum event because zero Alabama players were drafted. Today, there is a buzz because Tuscaloosa's biggest star needs to redeem himself.

What should've been a good first sign is turned bad by the gurus. Smith weighs in at 325 pounds, the lightest he's been in at least three years. But he takes off his shirt during the weigh-in, exposing an anti-Mandarichian belly.

When he goes topless during the 40-yard dash, bloggers gasp. His times aren't embarrassing, but they don't rank among the Top 10 prospects according to NFL.com. Smith also gets low marks in the 225-pound bench press, managing just 19 reps.

But one item that wasn't widely mentioned, former Cowboys exec Gil Brandt says, is that Smith has unusually long arms, making it harder to have big numbers on the bench press.

"Long arms are a prerequisite for being a good offensive lineman," says Brandt, an NFL.com analyst. "His arms are probably as long as anybody's in this draft.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that he works out better than his numbers indicate. Sometimes you go to a restaurant and the restaurant doesn't look very attractive, but once you get in there the food is pretty darn good. In this case, I think the body is not very attractive, but once you see him move around and do things, he's a lot better than what you're led to believe."

The biggest question, in some scouts' minds, won't be whether Smith has the ability to make an impact in the NFL. They'll wonder, Brandt says, if they can keep him in shape.

Smith is sitting near the windows at a restaurant on the Alabama campus a day after his workout, watching the kids with backpacks zoom by. Dressed in jeans and a designer T-shirt, with sunglasses propped on top of his head, he looks much smaller. And gentler. His dad always taught him to show two faces, to be the meanest one on the field and nicest man off of it.

Andre Jr. wonders, sometimes, if his easy-going demeanor leads people to wonder if he's focused.

"How serious am I?" he says. "How serious do you think I am? I don't think it's a flaw. That's just me. I'm laid-back.

"The only thing I can do is try to get the stigma off of me, I guess. I just want to get my name cleared like it was before all this stuff happened."

What happened? Smith still isn't exactly sure. He didn't hurt anyone that February morning or wind up on a police blotter. He tells himself that three years at Alabama can't be erased with one early flight or shirtless afternoon. But it likely will cost him millions come draft day on April 25. His supporters in Alabama know it, and Smith does, too. Publicly, he says it will be "an honor" just to be a first-round pick. Privately, he knows he could've had much more.

"This kid had lifetime goals," Pastor Green says. "Like the prodigal son, maybe he did come close to jeopardizing it. Let's be like that father. Once he repented … they still gave him the fatted calf.

"He hasn't done anything bad. Let's not write him off so quickly."

************

I know his stock has been falling like a rock -- at least to us here in the forum -- but I think he can be a stud RT in the NFL. He is the best run-blocker in the draft and if he fell to #24 we could plug him in right away at RT, move Clabo into RG, and then the only hole we have left is Center since I don't think Romberg is a long-time solution nor a future starter. We can focus this draft on the trenches and the defense and then try and add some playmakers (TE) next year along with some more D. If he is there at #24 he might be my top choice for us. Some people say he has bust written all over him, but I think once his life becomes all about football and he is on an NFL workout schedule he will be fine if not great. I hope he or Oher is available at #24.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They thing is, you can't teach work ethic and desire. He has to create that himself. If it wasn't for that I'd say yes. I think he is going to disappoint because he will not work hard, he will show up late or not at all to meetings, and he doesn't look like he works out in the weight room at all. This is the same things that Saban has dealt with with him. He thinks that he can get by just off his talent. Those type players don't succeed in this league.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

lazy...

put it this way. This was the most important time of his entire life, to look his best, be on his best behaviour.

And we got a work out skipping, lazy, passive, out of shape a** who cost himself millions.

That, would be a terrible pick for us, the worst possible in the 1st

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see the point about laziness and desire and I don't necessarily disagree. That said, look at what he did when he was on the field. He wasn't lazy on game day. I understand it is going to take more then what he has put in so far to be a great OT in the NFL, but he was the most dominent force on any offensive line anywhere in the country last year. I don't think there is any coincidence between him not playing in the Sugar Bowl and Alabama losing. When I heard he wasn't playing, I knew Bama was in trouble especially with P. Kruger on the other side. (For the record though, I still thought Alabama would win.)

At the 24th pick, the risk reward would be justified in the Falcons taking him. I am willing to bet everything I own that he doesn't get anywhere close to us however.

On a side note, I don't see him as a LT. I like him at RT personally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it was a position of need for us, I might agree, but not with other spots to fill. It's twice the risk, boom or bust player and ignoring more pressing needs.

I agree, but we did lose are starting LT who had prior injury concerns last year for 11 games or something and the guy that replaced him retired. The guy on the other side is only under contract for another year, so it might be more of a position of need then we think it is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They said Leonard Davis was an lazy arrogant self-centred player (which he was), but now he has developed into one of the premier tackls. I think the GM's ahead of us would be foolish to ignore his obvious talent, and doubt he will be there at #24.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He has made it this far off talent alone but players that come into the league with no work ethic always fail. You have to work hard in this league because everyone is as good if not better than the best guy you ever faced in college. This is the type of guy that becomes a bust. Has all the talent in the world but no drive. He looked good in his position drills at his pro day because he was getting by off of his raw talent btw. That won't fly in the NFL. DE's will push the tub of lard all over the field. He has no muscle mass at all. Dude benched less than some skill position guys including some QB's. It's ridiculous and he obviously isn't taking it seriously. Also while at ALA, it was said he kept getting in trouble for not showing up to meeting and events that he was supposed to be at. That's why he was suspended in the bowl game. Then to top it off, he goes and does a similar thing at the combine. That just shows his lack of commitment and intelligence. He needs to wake up but I really thing that guys like this don't. I think he will be a bust in any round because NFL DE's will kill him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They said Leonard Davis was an lazy arrogant self-centred player (which he was), but now he has developed into one of the premier tackls. I think the GM's ahead of us would be foolish to ignore his obvious talent, and doubt he will be there at #24.

Davis is garbage and plays Guard, he gets hype now because he is a Cowboy. Talk to Dallas fans, I bet they tell you the same thing, overrated, lazy and gets blown up all the time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see the point about laziness and desire and I don't necessarily disagree. That said, look at what he did when he was on the field. He wasn't lazy on game day. I understand it is going to take more then what he has put in so far to be a great OT in the NFL, but he was the most dominent force on any offensive line anywhere in the country last year. I don't think there is any coincidence between him not playing in the Sugar Bowl and Alabama losing. When I heard he wasn't playing, I knew Bama was in trouble especially with P. Kruger on the other side. (For the record though, I still thought Alabama would win.)

At the 24th pick, the risk reward would be justified in the Falcons taking him. I am willing to bet everything I own that he doesn't get anywhere close to us however.

On a side note, I don't see him as a LT. I like him at RT personally.

I agree. At 24, the risk is worth the reward. I would definitely prefer to go defense there, but I think Smith would be the exception to that if he were available.

Yes, his workouts have been poor, yes it seems he has some issues with laziness, but watching him on film takes away many of those worries. He dominates on the field. He might not be an Orlando Pace, but he's going to be a half step below that. I think he's got the ability to play LT in the NFL, but putting him at RT to start might be better for him. Give him something to work towards over his first couple of years in the league.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree. At 24, the risk is worth the reward. I would definitely prefer to go defense there, but I think Smith would be the exception to that if he were available.

Yes, his workouts have been poor, yes it seems he has some issues with laziness, but watching him on film takes away many of those worries. He dominates on the field. He might not be an Orlando Pace, but he's going to be a half step below that. I think he's got the ability to play LT in the NFL, but putting him at RT to start might be better for him. Give him something to work towards over his first couple of years in the league.

I think the risk on taking Andre Smith at #24 is much less for us than a team who would need a LT. I think Smith would be a dominating RT for us and if Baker's injuries don't go away, he could be slid over to LT and Clabo could move back out to RT, putting Dahl back in at RG. Smith is starting to become my favorite pick for our 1st -- I just hope that his poor pre-draft performance will allow him to fall to our pick. And Smith isn't as lazy as he is made out to be because of his pre-draft performance either -- he voluntarily joined a club at Alabama in which he woke up at 6 AM every morning to work out and get into better shape.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the risk on taking Andre Smith at #24 is much less for us than a team who would need a LT. I think Smith would be a dominating RT for us and if Baker's injuries don't go away, he could be slid over to LT and Clabo could move back out to RT, putting Dahl back in at RG. Smith is starting to become my favorite pick for our 1st -- I just hope that his poor pre-draft performance will allow him to fall to our pick. And Smith isn't as lazy as he is made out to be because of his pre-draft performance either -- he voluntarily joined a club at Alabama in which he woke up at 6 AM every morning to work out and get into better shape.

He had 0 muscle mass which shows he doesn't even know where the weight room is. lol. The biggest problem I have with him is he wouldn't show up to meetings and stuff that he was supposed to be at. That's why he was suspended for the bowl game and it was said that he had missed things a lot and it was not just that one time. That means he has a lack of commitment. Therefore, imo, we could draft him anywhere and he will still get manhandled by NFL d-lineman. He has talent and a lot of it but the type of players that fail in this league have talent but no work ethic. He obviously doesn't work out. Maybe not at all. He would be a steal that late if he changes his commitment level. If he doesn't he will not be strong enough to block DE's from either tackle positions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If he was as lazy as everyone is stating on here he would not have started as many games at Alabama with Saban there. I dont care who you are he will bench you in a min as he has shown in the past and as he did in the Sugar Bowl . Andre went to the same camps and practices as the rest of the team and if people think they are anything close to being easy they are mistaken. If he was slacking he would not have played period.

Could / Should he have done more... I think for sure and I really hope he steps it up for his sake but people on here are acting like he was sitting on the sideline with his feet propped up eating Dreamland Ribs the whole time while everyone else was busting butt and that is not the case.

The guy in like Jekyll and Hyde , when he gets on the field he takes pride in trying to completely destroy the guy across from him and he holds his blocks till the bitter end. He allowed 1 Sack last year with a very mediocre line around him .It might take some time to adjust to the NFL but DE's will not be blowing past him very long if at all ....no way. Its all on the film and thats why I dont think he slides to 24.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can say that about every lazy player that comes out. Speaking of they went through the same practices as everyone else but while everyone else was in the weight room he was eating doughnuts or something. NFL scouts are questioning him too, not just us on here. They took notice of his lack of any muscle mass whatsoever. And he did have problems with Saban but it had more to do with his not showing up to team meetings and events. It wasn't just one incident that he got suspended for. It was a track record. That was reported coming out of the Ala camp. He is lazy. Lazy players go through practice but they don't push themselves. I played ball with some lazy cats but they did just the minimum to get by. Other guys pushed themselves to be the best they can be and worked hard in the weight room. You can not sit here and say he worked hard in the weight room when he had no muscle mass whatsoever. Even if he didn't work out since the season, he would have still had some muscle mass. He don't work out. If he does it is hardly at all. He will get picked in the first round still but he was going to be a top 2 or 3 pick and now we are discussing whether he'll be there at 24. That shows you what NFL scouts think of him right now. He will probably be gone by 24 but that's because someone will think they can light a fire under him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its all speculation at this point but like I stated I never heard many bad things about him throughout this career but he could have worked harder and I know that he hasnt lived up to his potential but that could change.

As far as all character issues I just dont buy that it was going on for along time. I never heard of it and why would Saban play him all seaon with him missing meetings and practices and then all the sudden decide to suspend him at the Sugar Bowl. If he were doing this all along he would have been suspended then ...not later just like Prince Hall that he suspended again this week and a few games last season.

It doesnt matter anyway, we wont know how it will unfolds for a couple years. I understand your point and it could prove true, I am just hoping , for his sake, he steps it up and proves his critics wrong because he really is a good kid and not a trouble maker or malcontent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...