Jason Smith often reminisces about his only collegiate touchdown.
He was playing tight end for Baylor University during his redshirt freshman season in a 2005 matchup against Oklahoma. The Bears were on the Sooners’ 2-yard line when quarterback Shawn Bell called the play Spartan-22. Smith knew what that meant. When his defender bit on the running back who had run out into the flat, Smith broke free in the end zone before hauling in Bell’s pass for the touchdown.
“I remember everything about that play,” he said in an interview with Scout.com.
Smith’s time as a skill position player was short-lived, however, as the Bears’ coaching staff decided after the season to switch the big man from tight end to offensive tackle.
It’s safe to say that the move has turned out to be a wise decision.
Smith, an agile 6-5, 310-pounder, now finds himself as one of the highest rated prospects in this April’s NFL draft.
While his time as a tight end was brief, that experience helped him in his switch to the offensive line. Scouts and teams have raved about Smith’s athletic ability, and see him as equal parts lock down pass protector and a playmaking pulling lineman in the running game.
Scouts see this year’s offensive tackle class (other members include Virginia’s Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith of Alabama and Ole Miss’s Michael Oher) as very deep and talented, and Smith has found himself at the top of the list. ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both predict he’ll go No. 2 to the St. Louis Rams, but Smith has reportedly had meetings with the Detroit Lions (owners of the No. 1 pick), and given the league’s valuing of offensive tackles, it is very possible that Smith could end up as the draft’s top selection.
Baylor is known more for serving as the doormat of the Big 12 than they are for producing first round draft picks. But the Bears did show a bit of life this past season, going 2-6 in conference (finishing ahead of Texas A&M and Iowa State) and playing conference powers Missouri and Texas Tech tougher than usual. Their success was in part due to the emergence of talented freshman quarterback Robert Griffin, which was due in no small part to Smith’s consistently superb play at left tackle.
Struggling NFL teams will now have to decide if Smith can give them the same kind of help next season. One thing they can be sure of: If they ever want to throw him a pass in the red zone as an eligible receiver, at least they know he remembers how to catch it.
Latest on Smith
Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN agree that Smith will go to the St. Louis Rams with the no. 2 pick.
Smith recently sat down with the Detroit Lions (includes video of Smith’s combine workout).
Matt Mosley of ESPN.com met with Smith in preparation of a feature story he’s about to drop about him.
Smith on the Web
NFL Draft Scout profile: Scouting assessment with stats and measurables
Baylor Profile: Stats and personal info
Feature from newspaper in Waco, Texas: Smith opens up prior to Baylor’s October matchup against Oklahoma
Smith’s Wikipedia page:Links to other Smith stories and profiles
Matt Mosley feature on Jason Smith
Check out this feature on Jason Smith by Matt Mosley of ESPN.com.
On being asked in college to switch from tight end to offensive tackle:
“I’d rather be a fast anything than a slow something. I wanted to help the team any way I could, so I said, ‘Why not?’”
On his upbeat attitude:
“I enjoy life. You can’t walk around being mad all the time.”
On the importance of caring for your teammates:
“I’ve learned to care about the people next to me more than I care about myself. Once I mastered that, it became natural for me to block – pass block and run block. It became natural for me to run out on screens and throw my body out there. You can play the position, but unless you really care about the quarterback you’re protecting, you’re not going to do everything it takes to protect him.”