|NFL DRAFT: Ravens nab elated Heisman winner Smith|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 12:10|
Eight quarterbacks were taken before Smith, who went 25-3 as Ohio State's starting quarterback. He led the Buckeyes to the national championship game in January, averaged 215 yards in total offense over 42 games and won college football's most prestigious award.
Yet, Smith spent the better part of two days being ignored by 32 NFL general managers. How could this possibly happen?
``I don't know. I couldn't tell you that. That really doesn't matter right now,'' Smith said. ``The only thing that matters is the Baltimore Ravens and becoming a part of that team and letting them know I'm going to be that kind of player that's going to be consistent.''
Smith helped the Buckeyes win two Big Ten championships and ranks third in Ohio State history with 54 touchdown passes. He completed 62.7 percent of his passes, threw only 13 interceptions (in 670 attempts) and ran for 14 touchdowns.
None of this apparently mattered when it came time to assess his ability to perform in the NFL.
``The critics are going to be here for the rest of my life. There's nothing I can do about them,'' Smith said. ``In a lot of ways, they make people stronger or they take people under. My whole life I've been fighting that battle. It turned out positive right now and I'm going to continue to stay the course and fight the critics. They're not going anywhere and I accept them for who they are.''
Smith didn't care 173 players had been deemed better than he. What mattered was he was going to a team with a winning tradition, and he would learn from a veteran quarterback who had played in the Super Bowl.
``When they called my name, my family went crazy, I went crazy,'' Smith said. ``It's a beautiful situation.''
Perhaps realizing Smith might not be drafted on the first day of the draft, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel called Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome earlier in the week and recommended Baltimore consider moving Smith up on their board.
``He said, 'I feel like this would be a very good place for him,''' Newsome said. ``I took the information down, and it just so happened to fall that way.''
Smith will come into camp no higher than No. 3 on the depth chart behind Steve McNair and Kyle Boller. He relishes the idea of emulating McNair, who led the Tennessee Titans into the Super Bowl in 1999.
``Oh man, that's an eye-opening experience in itself,'' Smith said. ``He's going to continue to prosper, and he's going to take me with him. I just want to learn from him for as long as I can.''
Smith is listed at 6-foot, 225 pounds. His height might have been a factor in his drop on the draft board.
``He's got everything it takes to be successful as a quarterback,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said. ``He's proven it at the collegiate level and now is very, very motivated to prove it in the NFL.''
Smith was the most notable name in a very productive draft for Baltimore. The Ravens addressed their thin offensive line by taking Auburn guard Ben Grubbs in the first round and Iowa tackle Marshal Yanda in the third.
They got a kick returner and speedy receiver in Kansas State's Yamon Figurs, also in the third round, and filled the void left by the departure of fullback Ovie Mughelli by drafting Le'Ron McClain of Alabama in the fourth round.
Baltimore also got two linebackers to cover for the loss of free agent Adalius Thomas. Antwan Barnes of Florida International was selected in the fourth round, and Prescott Burgess was taken with the 207th pick (in the sixth round).
``I think we'll look back on this draft three or four years from now,'' Newsome said, ``and see a bunch of players that are going to be major contributors on a team that was 13-3 and hopefully has positioned itself to go deep into the playoffs next year.''
Eric DeCosta, the team's director of college scouting, said, ``We wanted to address the offensive line, we did that. We wanted to address special teams, we did that. Linebacker depth was something we wanted to address, we did that. And we got the best fullback in the draft. I think we got better today.''
And what about quarterback? Does Smith make the Ravens a better team?
``I've watched him play for two years in many big games. I love his poise,'' DeCosta said. ``He's respected, he's got an absolute cannon for an arm. We think he's got an upside to help us and emerge as a backup for us at some point and maybe more than that.''