PHILADELPHIA – Beginner Catcher DeVonta SmithThe NFL career in the NFL got off to a quick start.
The No.10 pick in the 2021 draft leads the Philadelphia Eagles in receptions (25) and receiving yards (314), placing second among rookies in both categories behind the former teammate Jaylen waddles (27 captures) with the Miami dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Ja’Marr Chase (456 meters).
Smith didn’t really surprise anyone. The Eagles traded in the April Draft to select him following a Heisman Trophy campaign in which he led the NCAA in receptions (117), receiving yards (1,856) and receiving touchdowns (23) for Alabama.
There were some concerns, however, about how he would progress to the NFL given his 6-foot, 170-pound frame. The previous seven receivers selected in the top 10 in the NFL Draft were two inches taller and about 40 pounds taller (6-foot-2, 212 pounds on average), according to ESPN Stats & Information. The last wideout chose this top weighing less than 180 pounds was Tavon Austin, who hasn’t started a game in the past three seasons and hasn’t gone over five touchdown passes in a single season.
But those who spent time with Smith during his pre-suit and draft preparation work at Yo Murphy Performance in Tampa, Fla., Were far from worried – a distinguished group that included the Hall of Fame catcher. professional footballer Randy Moss and linebacker Derrick Brooks, as well as Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl Linebacker Darius Leonardo. From the way Smith trained to the way he moved on to his deep understanding of the game, it was obvious that Smith was unique.
“When you’re young you play on emotion and energy,” Moss said. “You rarely have a guy who wants to be a student of the game from an early age. And I think that’s what he wants to be.”
Make a good impression on Moss
Smith’s explosiveness and ability to part ways with defenders is obvious, but it was his strong desire to learn and improve despite his accomplishments at the college level that really struck Moss, who is part of the program. Yo Murphy’s draft preparation. When he arrived in Tampa in January, Smith was recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated finger suffered in the national title game. He wasn’t allowed to catch passes and couldn’t even practice his 40-yard dash early on because his injured finger was on his supporting hand.
“He couldn’t do a course,” Moss said, “so he thought, ‘Is it okay if I just come and stay and listen? “It impressed me even more because you’re out there in the heat for an hour and a half to two hours and he’s just sitting there soaking up everything.”
One particular interaction between Moss and Smith said a lot about Murphy, a former NFL wide receiver who runs the program. Moss had assembled a group of skill players that included Smith, Dee Eskridge (written by the Seattle Seahawks), Anthony schwartz (Cleveland browns), Demetric Felton (Browns) and Dez Fitzpatrick (Titans of Tennessee). Moss asked them an open ended question on how to decipher defensive covers. The normally calm Smith “sort of picked up the conversation like he was Moss,” Murphy said.
“Not in a disrespectful way. But just really sure of himself… You have one of the best receivers in history and a lot of other very talented receivers that we had in our squad. And the dominant presence that we had in our squad. he had in this situation, it was very obvious that he was different. “
“Maniac” vs. “Slim Reaper”
Leonard, nicknamed “Maniac” for the energy he brings to the game, has found a soul mate in Smith, aka the “Slim Reaper”.
Smith is an early riser and would be heading to the training facility at 6 a.m. to train. The only other person who would be there at that time was Leonard, who is training at Yo Murphy Performance during the offseason.
“He had the same mentality he wanted to work,” Leonard said this spring. “He’s got that winning mindset, and it was good to see some young talent coming over there and pushing me: ‘OK, that’s the young talent coming.’”
Whoever drafte Devonta Smith is going to have a special player!
– Darius Leonard (@ dsleon45) January 12, 2021
Smith added, “I have built a relationship with [Leonard] come at that time. I knew if I was going to be up there, he would be up there. Being with him every morning, see the way he trains, a guy like that in the NFL, you see it worked for him – he just got paid [Leonard signed a five-year, $99 million contract extension in August] – so seeing the work he did got him where he wanted to be. Being with a guy like him helped me so much during the process. “
Murphy, who played catcher for over a decade in the NFL, CFL, XFL and NFL Europe before embarking on high performance training, called Smith “one of the most successful athletes. most mature and locked up I have ever had “.
Her favorite story about Smith came near the end of their pre-draft training, as the athletes prepared for their professional days.
“We hadn’t really pushed our distance so I asked the guys to do a few sprints,” said Murphy. “They had five sprints, and I wanted them to do the first three at about 65-75%, then for the last two, I wanted them to get up and go. And so I said, ‘Smitty, did you do your full sprints? Not in an arrogant way, but just actually.
“I just sat down and thought about it. How he said it, it wasn’t him who was arrogant or anything, it was like I was asking him if the sky was blue. him, it was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ “
This foam mentality
There are physiological explanations for why Smith is able to do what he does on the football field.
“He’s got such a mind-body awareness and a mind-body connection,” Murphy said. “The impulses in his central nervous system are so in sync with the function of his muscle. The fluidity is ridiculous. He’s a guy that you very rarely are going to be able to throw off balance. He understands his center of mass so well, and his body. sort of comes back to where it’s structurally strong. It’s a very unique thing, even among top athletes. “
Even Smith’s ability to absorb physical punishment despite his small size can be attributed to his “solid structure,” Murphy explained, from his bone mass to the way “he has his rib cage directly on his hip.”
Much, however, is a question of mentality. That’s what Moss focused on with Smith: the right mindset to have as a receiver. The way you are. The way you attack a defensive back. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Moss was faced with some of the same durability questions coming from Marshall, making it easy to see parts of himself in Smith.
“It was my mentality to [fighting against] the things they said I couldn’t do – didn’t go through the middle, I wasn’t tough enough, wait until you take that first hit going through the middle – all the little things the naysayers have say. I really see the similarities, and I’m glad he does too, “Moss said.
For all the teachings Smith received, his biggest advantage is measuring Moss.
“We’re both long, skinny guys, just our frame and the way we open up. That’s the thing that stood out to me the most,” said Smith. “A guy like him, he was a little bigger than me, but the frame he had, if he can do it, I can do it.”
Moss sees some common traits in himself and Smith, from “how slippery he is on the line of scrimmage” to how he is able to part ways to how he is “able to take that slim little body. and nimble and being able to maneuver it and be able to stay away from that hard contact. “
Moss plans to continue working with Smith, with a focus on making him physically stronger while eliminating weaknesses in his game.
“For me just being with this young DeVonta is just keeping him hungry and thirsty for more knowledge, and keeping him hungry and thirsty to get better every year,” Moss said.