January 25, 2022
"Changing Lives, Improving Communities"

Diamond in the Rough: Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a class of 2021 wide receiver from out of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX. Smith stands at 6’0 185 lbs with a bench of 225, a squat of 400, and a deadlift of 420. With a 40 yard dash of 4.7, Smith is also utilized as a defensive back as well. In one-on-one coverage, Smith is nearly unbeatable on 50/50 balls, possessing excellent hands and ability to reach over defenders. His incredible strength makes Smith excellent at producing yards after the catch, coupled with the quickness to easily make defenders miss in open space.His football IQ is far above the average high school athlete, constantly learning from his father, Rick Smith, who was the Executive Vice President of Football Operations of the Houston Texans and defensive backs coach for the Denver Broncos. Smith’s Iq is also evident in the classroom, boasting a 3.5 GPA, 29 ACT score, and a SAT of 1250. All-in-all, Robert is a bonafide WR1 and is an overall offensive nightmare for opposing defenses. I reached out to Rob for an interview and he kindly took time out of his busy day to speak with me about his life and football.

Can you tell me a bit about your upbringing in football and what got you started in the sport?

Well my dad (Rick Smith) played safety at Purdue, then went on to coach DBs for the Denver Broncos prior to becoming the VP of Football Operations for the Texans. So, needless to say, football has been an integral part of my life since birth. I was fully enveloped in the sport for as long as I can remember and I expect it to remain that way throughout my life. 

What were some of your initial reactions, takeaways, and views on football when you first began playing?

I didn’t start playing tackle football until 4th grade and to be honest, I initially did not like the physical aspect of the sport at such a young age. However, I found a great mentor when I came here (Texas) who really opened my eyes to the sport and I began to embrace that physicality. I then started to really enjoy being in leadership roles, which helped tremendously in my progression and confidence.

Your situation seems unique as opposed to most high school players. Having a parent be involved at the highest level of the sport must have had a significant impact on you as an athlete and person. Can you talk a little about that and what that experience was like growing up?

My dad played a huge role in my life. Having first-hand experience into his job was eye opening at such a young age. Everything from eating with the team, attending practices, and learning from the players and coaches helped my development in a substantial way. It wasn’t just the practice and gametime operations I learned, either. As a kid I would spend time with the trainers just helping fold towels and doing the day-to-day activities in the training room. What that did for me was help me appreciate all the things that go into running a team and organization. Most don’t get a chance to see all the little things that are vital to a team’s organization and how every part has to work together to become one, cohesive unit.

Having that first hand experience and insight into an NFL organization, are there ways you can bring that knowledge to your teammates and if so, what do you share with them?

It’s a great thing to be able to bring that NFL mentality to the high school level. My teammates feed off of that and it helps in a massive way. The team works well with the players and coaches to share knowledge which I believe gives us a competitive edge, but also helps keep us grounded, because at the end of the day we’re all the same. We’re all just human beings who can relate to each other no matter the level of football we play. 

Are there players, former or current, that you have grown close to inside that organization. If so, what have they meant to you growing up around the sport?

I’m really close to Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. I’m always texting or talking with him (Hopkins) to get advice on my game, whether that be watching my film or working out. He’s been such a great friend to me and never hesitates to take time out of his day to evaluate me or give me tips in improving my game. Jonathan Joseph is also a very close family friend of ours who always makes me feel so welcomed.

When prepping for a big game, are there any specific rituals you have, such as listening to certain music or having any sort of ritual?

I had some Maryland gear sent to me such as a pair of shorts that I like to wear in the locker room before big games. I try and always keep the same outfit and accessories as well. This may sound a bit strange, but I enjoy listening to meditation music, along with Jazz, before game time. It’s a great way for me to relax and put my mind at ease. Another ritual I have is that I always put Icy Hot on my hamstrings before I play, I can’t go into the game without my Icy Hot.

Talk to me a bit about your role on the team as a wide receiver. What do you believe you strive at? How would you describe your playstyle and what are some of your favorite concepts to run on gameday?

As a wide receiver I play at the X spot for my team. I’m a big physical wideout who loves going one-on-one against defenders. I love to run those dagger routes with a 15 yard in. That’s a play that I’m rarely stopped on. I also really strive on the stutter post on play action.

If you were to describe yourself to a college coach or recruiter, what would you tell them to set you apart from the crowd as a wide receiver and athlete in general?

First of all, I take extreme pride in my blocking ability as a wide receiver. We are a run  heavy team in general, so it’s important for me, as a wide-out, to not be selfish and realize that blocking is a vital skill set to have. I believe that shows my toughness and physicality. I’m not afraid to go out there and hit someone in the mouth. 

What are some aspects of your game that you believe either needs improvement or you want to perfect?

Well, I have great hands and can grab anything within my reach. Because of that I’d like to work on becoming even more of a deep threat. To do that I need to always be working on my speed and strength non-stop. There’s simply no end when it comes to improving your game.

Along with working on becoming a bigger deep threat, are there any personal goals you have set for yourself with the 2020 season approaching? What about team goals?

When it comes to personal goals, I make sure I write all of them down on my wall. That way it’s the first thing I see when I wake up and always realize what’s in front of me. For 2020, I’d to be 1st Team All-District wide receiver and be a top 3 receiver in our district. Yardage wise, I’m aiming for 600 yards and no drops. As a team we’re focused on the little things first. Staying humble, being true to our identity, and not getting complacent. 

Finally, as a team leader, what steps do you take to ensure the success of the younger guys on the team, or just the whole team in general?

Well, I lettered my sophomore year so I was thrown into a leadership role early on. What I make sure to do is stay close to the younger guys on the team. It’s important to show that an upperclassman is close to them and has their backs. It’s a great way to keep morale up with that group. Then, as a team, it’s crucial that we’re always keeping each other accountable. It’s important to be a player led team and not a team exclusively led by just the coaches. That’s how you create a brotherhood and can ensure teamwide success for everyone.