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DE Will Smith (National Champion, Super Bowl Champion, Pro-bowler; R.I.P.)

Looks as if Sander is generating some serious draft interest.

Don’t be surprised if the Redskins draft Ohio State punter B.J. Sander. They would take him home today if they could. Word is that Sander put on a kicking clinic during his workout and members of the Redskins organization were blown away with the performance.

Combine Notes from DDN

Tressel needs to hire Will Smith's grandma as the next coach.

Grandma Smith Knows Best

OSU's Smith glad he listened to grandma
Returning to Buckeyes helped his draft status

By Chick Ludwig
Dayton Daily News
Sunday, February 22, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS -- Will Smith's mind was made up. It was January 2003, Ohio State had just won the national championship and he was going, going, gone to the NFL.

Too many former teammates already were in the league. Too much money was about to be placed on the table. Too many good times and quarterback sacks were ahead. The junior defensive end from Utica, N.Y., was ready to say, "Goodbye, Columbus."

That's when Nancy Smith put her foot down. After all, grandma knows best.

Looking back, Big Will can chuckle about it now. But a year ago, it wasn't very funny.

"It wasn't an argument," Smith said. "She just told me, 'You should go back to school.' I was thinking, 'No, I don't want to.' I wanted to leave real bad. It was hard because you just won the national championship. What else can you do? I thought it was time to move on.

"The other side of it is: You can stay and try and repeat, and have another great year. I thought about it a lot and decided it was best to stay another year in school. That's what I did. I came back and had another good year."

The NFL projected Smith as a late first-round draft pick or early second-rounder last year. After generating 20 tackles for loss in 2003, including 10.5 sacks, the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder is rated the No. 1 defensive end in the April 24-25 NFL Draft.

Was it worth it to stay in school and hone that talent?

"Yes, it was," said Smith, who is 25 credit hours away from a bachelor's degree as a criminology major. "I think I got better. I got an opportunity to work on a couple things. I didn't think my run defense was as good as it should have been, and I got to beef up a little, gain a little bit more muscle and work on the run."

Smith isn't your standard-issue long, lean, pass-rushing machine. You must take out the long and lean part. What he possesses is strength and quickness. He sheds blockers well with his strong hands, is a tower of power at the point of attack and shows explosiveness off the line of scrimmage.

"I want to be the first guy off the ball attacking the offensive lineman," Smith said. "We work a lot on the first step. I have that down pretty well. But it takes a combination. You've got to be able to rush the passer, stop the run, be able to make plays from the backside and you've just always got to go 110 percent.

"I can bring the ability to stop the run, the ability to get after the passer and I'm just a great team leader. I don't think a lot of guys out there can actually do both. You get the really big guy that can stop the run or you get a really skinny guy that can pass rush. I'm kind of in between."

Smith, who studies film of future Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, has received plenty of advice in recent months. Joel Segal of Miami Beach, Fla., is his agent and advisor. Former Buckeye roommate Kenny Peterson, a third-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2003, is another confidant.

"He said it's a hard league," Smith said. "You're going up against a lot of guys that have equal talent. You've just got to outwork 'em."

But the best advice of all came from grandma. The difference between a low first-rounder and a top-15 pick is millions of dollars. She surely deserves a portion of that signing bonus, eh?

"Absolutely," Smith said. "I'm going to help my family out, especially my grandmother."


Illuminatus Emeritus
Staff member
BP Recruiting Team
Will Smith has always reminded me of Bruce Smith - very quick and athletic, always making plays, often behind the line of scrimmage, but a bit undersized "by the numbers"; I wouldn't be surprised if Will also has a great NFL career.
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DE Will Smith (Official Thread)

hometown paper article on Will


Ever since losing his mother to breast cancer when he was 4 years old, Will Smith, the All-American football player from Utica, has been taking his grandmother's words of wisdom to heart.

Why stop now?

Without Nancy Smith to lean on and learn from all these years, the Ohio State University senior knows he might not be who or what he is today -- a projected Top 20 pick in Saturday afternoon's National Football League draft whose best qualities can't be measured in inches, pounds or seconds.

"It was difficult. I didn't understand," said Will Smith, whose mother, Lisa, was 27 when she died. "We always knew my mother was sick. We always thought it would go away. We never knew she had really gone until the funeral.

"But I was never without a mother figure. We were already staying at my grandmother's and when my mother passed away she took over all the responsibilities; it wasn't like there was nobody there for me."

Nancy Smith, now a spirited 73-year-old New York City resident waging her own bout with cancer, has always been there for Will and his older sister, Chantay.

In 1991, she moved them from Queens to Utica when Will was 9 years old so they could be closer to their father, William Smith. And she made sure they knew right from wrong while growing up in a rough, tough South Street neighborhood where choosing the wrong path was almost too easy.

"I just followed my instincts," said Nancy Smith, who years before had started raising her four children in the Brooklyn projects. "There were just so many things that kids could get into. I wanted to make sure they weren't hanging out on the streets. That was a no-no.

"I used to tell them, 'I'm not working anymore, so I've got nothing to do but stay up your butts,'" she said.

Her grandchildren say she was strict and old-fashioned in her ways, but that was just what they needed to survive and eventually thrive.

"Will was younger and it was a little harder for him to understand, so my grandmother took him under her wing and babied him," said Chantay Smith, 24, who lives in Queens near her grandmother. "She knew the right things to do. She stayed on my behind and on his behind.

"It wasn't like we went without anything. We just had a different life," she said. "It wasn't the best area. There were distractions. It would've been easy to turn to drugs or drug dealing, but that wasn't an option. My grandmother wouldn't allow it. She was very strict and Will listened to her more than I did. I was the rebellious one, but neither one of us was hanging around on the streets, and Will had an out. He was into sports and my grandmother supported anything that would keep him out of trouble."

Sports and playing the trumpet worked for Will.

Basketball was his first love, but his friends persuaded him to try football when he was an eighth-grader at John F. Kennedy Junior High School.

After two years at the modified and junior varsity level, Smith played three varsity seasons at Thomas R. Proctor Senior High School, twice earning all-state honors before winning an NCAA scholarship and helping Ohio State capture a national championship in the second of his three seasons as a starting defensive end for the Buckeyes.

"You would never know Will had gone through such adversity because he was so well adjusted," said Guy Puleo, the head coach of Smith's JFK and Proctor teams. "You never got a call from a teacher or a counselor. You never had to deal with any disciplinary problems. ... That says a lot about his grandmother. She sat on him.

"I don't know if that was in his nature, anyway, to be a follower. He was not going to follow people who were going to lead him the wrong way."

Nancy Smith wouldn't allow it, said Paul Filletti, his line coach at JFK and Proctor and a Utica police officer for more than 12 years.

"From what I could see, she wouldn't let Will be a street kid," said Filletti. "He had to get his homework done at a certain time. He had to practice the trumpet at a certain time. He wasn't hanging out with his buddies."

When he became a high school football star, Nancy Smith wanted to keep her grandson's ego in check. Filletti and his other coaches helped her out there.

"One of them would say, 'Yeah, we have to knock him down once in a while,'" recalled Nancy Smith. "And I would tell them, 'Good, when you knock him down, step on him and tell him that's from Grandma.'

A year ago, she helped Will decide to return to college instead of making himself draft eligible as a junior. Now, he plans to complete his degree in criminology by next spring, with hopes of becoming an FBI agent some day.

Getting that degree is important to Nancy Smith. So is Will keeping a level head, something he already has mastered..

"It doesn't seem like you're talking to the best or one of the best defensive ends in the country," said Jon Bryant, a Proctor assistant coach who has become close friends with Smith. "He's humble. He's hard-working. He's generous. He just has the qualities people like to be around. He's a good person first and a great football player second."

More than anything he's done on the football field, his sister is most proud of how Will has handled the national spotlight, and dealt with the celebrity and million dollar dreams that come with being a first-round draft pick in the NFL.

"You'd think his head would be swollen by now," said Chantay Smith. "He's still a very warm, very humble, modest person. I still worry about it being too much pressure, too much stress on him, but he's adjusted very well.

"He's going to be successful and he's going to graduate, so he'll have something to fall back on. ... He's proven even from the worst circumstances, you can overcome that and still do well."

"As long as he doesn't change," warned Nancy Smith. "I've always told him we all can be replaced by a button, trust me; just push a button and it will do the same thing you can do without any back talk. I'm proud of him because in spite of all he's done, he's not full of himself. There's not a big fuss. He's not a big shot. It hasn't gone to his head."

Will Smith knows who to thank for that.

"I never had that mother-child relationship," he said, "but we were very fortunate to have somebody who loved us and cared for us and wanted the best for us. My grandmother knew we were going to have hard times growing up without a mother and she tried to make it as normal of a family as possible."

By all accounts, Nancy Smith did that, and more.
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Hall of Fame
Will Smith

A great person and an awesome player. You can tell he gives his best every play out there. I have two little girls, and I can not imagine them growing up without their mother. God provided him a loving grandmother who cared for him and would have done everything to keep him in a straight path. He will surely be missed around here in the Buckeye country. It will be awesome if he comes back and be a coach someday; he would be a great fatherly coach to many of these young football players. May his NFL carrer be long and prosperous.
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DE Will Smith (Official Thread)


Utica's Smith ends holdout, appears at Saints' camp
Standout defensive end 'anxious' to play
Mon, Aug 2, 2004

Utica's Will Smith officially kicked off his National Football League career late Saturday, not long after signing a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract with the New Orleans Saints.

Smith, a 6-foot-3, 282-pound defensive end from Ohio State University and Thomas R. Proctor Senior High School, ended his brief holdout early Saturday, his flight from Columbus, Ohio, getting him to Metairie, La., and the Saints' training camp facility in time for his first official NFL practice session.

"I was very anxious to get out there," said Smith in Sunday's edition of The Times-Picayune. "Now that the contract stuff is out of the way, I can just focus on football."

Smith, selected 18th overall during April's NFL draft, could not be reached for a further comment on Sunday.

On Saturday, though, he reportedly signed a six-year contract. Financial terms were not released, but according to The Times-Picayune, the deal is expected to include bonuses of more than $6 million in the first year.

The total value of the first five years of the contract is believed to be $8.7 million, and with escalator and incentive clauses, Smith could earn almost $12 million.

The final year of the contract could be voided if certain performance incentives are met.

Smith, an all-state high school player at Proctor and an All-American at Ohio State, missed the first two days of the Saints' training camp, which began Thursday.

"I love football," he told The Times-Picayune, "so I was ready to get the deal done and get to camp."

Smith helped an unbeaten Ohio State team win the NCAA National Championship as a junior, and he was one of the Buckeyes' captains as a senior. He was named the Big Ten Conference's Defensive Player of the Year after his final year. As a senior, he had 10» sacks and 20 tackles for a loss, and the three-year starter finished fifth in school history with 21 career sacks.

"Will gives us another talented player to plug in up front in our defense," said Mickey Loomis, the Saints' vice president and general manager, in a statement released by the team. "He realized that to make the most of his rookie season, he couldn't miss any more time at training camp. This is a player we expect to make an impact, and we're thrilled to have him agree to terms and on his way to New Orleans."

Many experts who had projected Smith to be selected earlier in the NFL draft were even more surprised when the Saints, who already had two veteran defensive ends in Charles Grant and Darren Howard, used the No. 18 pick to take who they considered the best player available.

Smith, the first defensive end chosen and the second defensive lineman selected, is most respected for his ability to rush the passer. He could be used in passing situations, or even see significant playing time in a rotation with Grant and Howard.

Either way, Smith told The News-Star (Monroe, La.) in late June that he felt no pressure as the Saints' first-round draft choice.

"Not at all," Smith said, "because this team is good already so I don't feel I have to come in and make a big impact on the team. All I have to do is come in and find my role and eventually fit in and play with the rest of the guys."

Smith participated in the Saints' three-day mini-camp that ended June 18, but because he was still working toward his degree in criminology and graduating from Ohio State, NCAA rules forced him to miss all of the team's off-season conditioning and study sessions.

"I should be fine," Smith said during the mini-camp.

Temperatures were nearing the 100-degree mark that week, and Smith complained of the heat and a bout with asthma.

Saints head coach Jim Haslett said Smith would have to get used to the heat and humidity.

"Will is not in the football condition he should be in," Haslett said during the June mini-camp. "He's a talented kid. He's going to help us win a lot of games. But this is an eye-opening experience for him."

The Saints end their first week of camp Saturday with the annual Black & Gold Scrimmage. They begin a four-game exhibition season Aug. 13 against the New York Jets in the Louisiana Superdome.

Last year, New Orleans was 7-4 over the final 11 weeks of the season. The Saints, however, finished 8-8 and failed to make the NFL playoffs for the third consecutive year.
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DE Will Smith (Official Thread)


Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS
New Orleans defensive end Will Smith pressures San Francisco's Ken Dorsey. Smith has six sacks, second-most among rookies in the NFL.

Defensive end 'blossoming into a heck of a football player'
Special to The Advocate

METAIRIE -- The New Orleans Saints do have a No. 1 draft choice living up to expectations on the defensive line.
While the ongoing disappointments of defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, a first-round draft choice in 2003, have been well-documented, end Will Smith, this year's No. 1, has quietly had a productive rookie season.

Smith has six sacks, second-most among rookies in the NFL (Kansas City's Jared Allen has eight), and has become one of the Saints most consistent defenders lately. He has had a sack in the last three games and four of the last five and forced a fumble in the victory at Dallas last week.

"Will Smith is really blossoming into a heck of a football player," coach Jim Haslett said, "in the last couple of weeks he's really come on both in the run game and in the pass game."

Smith, the 18th player drafted, was impressive in the preseason, struggled a bit early in the season, then started to come on around midseason.

"I'm getting accustomed and feeling more comfortable," Smith said. "I'm not worried about making mistakes and I'm just going out and playing. It's always been natural, but I'm more comfortable with the rest of the guys and with the coaching staff.

"When you come in as the rookie you don't want to make a whole lot of mistakes or they won't put you out there. You're always worried about that. Now that the season's winding down they know what I can do and that I'm not going to make too many mistakes so I can gamble a little bit and make more plays."

Defensive line coach John Pease said he sees a difference in Smith now compared to the start of the season.

"He's not feeling his way as much," Pease said. "He understands what we're trying to get done. It's like playing chess, where you learn all the moves, then there are guys who learn to play the game of chess.

"I think as guys get older they learn it's not just X and O. You don't move just here. This is why you do this. There are reasons for it. I think it makes you a better player. He's very, very smart, and when we took him we knew he was a bright, big guy and could learn a lot, and that's been a big help for us."

Smith's development has given the Saints a formidable rotation at end. Charles Grant has 8‰ sacks, and Darren Howard has 7‰, giving the trio of ends 22 sacks.

"All three of us can line up anywhere and get pressure on the quarterback, so we change around during the game and confuse a lot of offensive linemen," Smith said. "I've learned a lot. I've learned more from Charles because he's a power rusher and Darren is more of a finesse rusher. I've learned different styles from different types of players."

Grant, a No. 1 pick two years ago, has given advice to Smith, who was a three-year starter at Ohio State.

"I told Will not to get caught up in all the tossing and turning," Grant said. "He's going to be a great player in this business. I think the most important thing is he stays consistent. He plays with a motor."

Pease said the Saints have taken advantage of the speed of the three ends, as well as swingman Tony Bryant, in the last two weeks.

"I think we've got a three-player rotation at defensive end that's kind of fun and then we go to what we call our fast-nickel, when Will and Tony Bryant go in with Darren and Charlie," Pease said. "That gives us four pretty quick guys. We've just got to get them into third-and-long. That's the secret.

"We've been playing the run better the last couple of games, so we're able to get those guys on the field and that's what you want to do. It's like getting a racecar on the straightaway. You want to get on that straightaway so you can open it up. The nice thing is you don't have to blitz to get heat. Even though they may max-protect you get guys that are athletic enough that they'll beat two blockers."

The Saints have played from behind and had the worst run defense in the NFL most of the year, providing minimal opportunities to rush the passer in obvious passing situations. They did a better job last week against the Cowboys.

"The thing that hurts that group is we haven't been ahead except for last week," Haslett said. "It's hard to have a quantity of sacks when you don't have a lead. So the amount of sacks they have is really kind of phenomenal considering the situations we've been in. They're as good as anyone around but I think they can improve.

"I think Will Smith has a chance to be better and better, and I think Charles Grant has a chance to keep improving. Darren Howard is really the veteran with five years and he's productive. Every time he's on the field he makes plays. All three of them are very functional in what they do."
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HTTR Forever.
Note on Will Smith

Reading my fantasy team notes I saw this little gem:

Dec 13 Updating previous reports, New Orleans Saints DE Darren Howard (knee) did not play in the team's Week 14 game due to a combination of a chronic knee issue and a disciplinary action. Howard's production has dropped off some this year, especially his sack total. With the continued emergence of second-year DE Will Smith, Howard will certainly not be retained by the Saints in free agency after this season

In another short article, Saints coaches said they believe big Will is as fast as Freeney but stronger and will be a major player for years to come for them.

Way to go, Will.
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