INDIANAPOLIS — The Baltimore Ravens might not need to journey far to fulfill their quest for a dangerous deep threat capable of sprinting past cornerbacks.
Perhaps they could simply travel the short distance down the highway between team headquarters to College Park, site of the University of Maryland campus.
That’s where they’ll find swift Terrapins junior wide receiver Torrey Smith, one of the fastest downfield targets in the NFL draft with record-breaking kick return skills.
One day removed from former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi stating that the Ravens as having the slowest outside receiving corps in the league, Smith said he would love to play for Baltimore.
“To be able to play for the Ravens, that’s something that would definitely be a great situation for me being that I played at Maryland," Smith said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "I know how demanding the fans are and what they expect and how much they love the Ravens. I would definitely be honored to wear the purple and black.”
Smith caught 67 passes for 1,075 yards and 12 touchdowns last season before declaring early for the draft.
Big, strong and quick at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Smith has been compared to Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The native of Fredericksburg, Va., runs the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds.
And the Ravens could use an influx of speed outside.
"We always want to get better," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "A ‘speed receiver,’ I would like to have just good receivers. To me, their 40 time is important, but do they play fast? Are they in and out of breaks quickly? Can they make radius catches? Can they make plays downfield? We’ve got some guys that can do that, but yeah we’re looking to get better."
The Ravens averaged only 11.8 yards per reception last season and quarterback Joe Flacco averaged just 7.41 yards per pass attempt.
"I think Baltimore desperately needs an outside of the numbers wide receiver, they might be one of the slowest teams in the league outside," said Lombardi, an NFL Network draft analyst. "They got to find somebody who can vertically threaten the field. Baltimore has too many inside receivers. The guys that they have to get need to stretch the field and win one-on-one.”
Smith is expected to run one of the fastest times this weekend with a good time expected to boost his stock.
Smith set the Atlantic Coast Conference single-season kickoff return record with 1,089 yards in 2008, running back a kickoff 99 yards in the Humanitarian Bowl.
As a sophomore, he broke his own record with 1,309 kickoff return yards and 2,129 all-purpose yards as he returned two kicks for touchdowns.
He wound up catching 61 passes for 824 yards and five touchdowns.
Smith has been training with Ravens wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth.
"I’m pretty sure the NFL is fast, but I can run well," said Smith, who was scheduled for 16 interviews Friday night with one of them expected to be with the Ravens. "My speed will definitely be one of my strengths as I head to the next level.
"I think it impacts me a lot. You can watch me on film and see that I run fast. I can run past some of the faster corners out there. I think the 40 time is a lot, but, at the end of the day, it’s not a tell-all."
Smith also draws high marks for character, dealing with extreme adversity throughout his childhood and formative years.
He’s the oldest of seven children born to a single mother and is the first man in the family to earn a degree, graduating with a criminology diploma.
"It had its ups and downs," Smith said. "There were certain times when other kids would be able to go and have fun doing something, and I had responsibility, but that’s something I would not take back. It definitely helped me a lot. Seeing her mistakes, I was able to go out and not make those mistakes myself as I got older. I knew what I had to do to stay focused on my goals as I got older."
Former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen once said of Smith, "God created a perfect person."
Smith’s mother, Monica Jenkins, was frequently a victim of domestic violence in her relationships with men.
After a while, Smith could tell if someone was wrong for his mother.
"I’m like a psychic," Smith said. "I can sense a person’s character from a mile away."
Later, Jenkins got in a violent altercation with a female relative as she pleaded guilty to felony unlawful wounding and served time in a Virginia prison.
"There’s some great stories in college football and the National Football League, what guys have overcome, what players have done to get to this point, Torrey Smith is one of those stories," Harbaugh said. "So, I think it’s worth people taking a look into. There are a lot of role models in football right now."
Smith said he wasn’t aware that Harbaugh knew so much about him.
"That’s really cool, I didn’t even know the guy knew my name," Smith said. "It’s something I hope a lot of people can learn from. I hope the story is getting out. I’m just honored. It’s a blessing to be here. I’ve obviously went through a lot to be here and it helped me a lot more than it hurt me."
The last Maryland wide receiver to be drafted in the first round is Darrius Heyward-Bey, who’s regarded as a bust with the Oakland Raiders.
Smith said that comparisons between the two are unfair.
“I feel like Darius is going to be fine and it’s ignorant to compare two people who are completely different people just because we went to the same school,” Smith said. “It doesn’t mean anything. If he didn’t go to Maryland or I didn’t go to Maryland, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. At the end of the day, we’re two completely different people, and I’m going to have a completely different path than he is.”
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock questioned whether Smith can beat press coverage, a concern if he’s going to excel in the NFL against physical cornerbacks.
Smith said that’s an inaccurate portrayal.
"You can watch on film and five or six of my touchdowns are against press coverage," Smith said. "When I know a corner is going to press me in college, I know I can beat it. That doesn’t bother me at all."
After years of work to get to this point and several family issues, Smith is on the cusp of having his name called by an NFL team during the April draft.
"I’ve always watched the combine and imagined myself being here," he said. "Now that I’m here it’s definitely a surreal feeling. I plan on going out and having a good showing."
"It still gives me goose bumps. To have an opportunity to have my name called by a team, I’m just embracing it."
NOTES: The Ravens have met with several players, including Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, Nebraska wide receiver Niles Paul, Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, Hawaii wide receiver Greg Salas and East Carolina wide receiver Dwayne Harris. Hankerson, Salas and Harris all met with the Ravens at the Senior Bowl, too. “I met with them last night and we had a great conversation,” Harris said. “We talked about me in the return game and playing receiver. We talked for a good while about my role playing in their offense. I think they like me a lot.” … At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Baldwin is the prototype receiver. He was one of the receivers that Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta indicated “look like they can play in the NFL.” … The Ravens talked with Boise State wide receiver Titus Young at the Senior Bowl. Young has been labeled as a poor man’s DeSean Jackson.