OWINGS MILLS – Divergent paths brought cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith to the same packed auditorium Saturday at the Baltimore Ravens’ training complex.
Resplendent in dark suits paired with new baseball caps sporting the team insignia, the Ravens’ top draft picks had finally arrived in the NFL.
Unrelated, both football players have endured and overcome significant adversity.
For Jimmy Smith, that meant conquering a series of personal problems that has reportedly included multiple failed drug tests, including misuse of codeine, a pair of underage alcohol offenses, an arrest for assault and having abortions paid for by parents of women he impregnated.
The imposing first-round draft pick from Colorado insists that his past mistakes aren’t dire indicators of future trouble.
"Most of the mistakes I made, or the bad decisions I made were when I was 18, 19 years old, so they were more of a maturity thing," Jimmy Smith said. "I want people to know that I don’t have any character issues and that I made some bad decisions when I was a young kid just like most Americans, but I don’t want them to think that I’m going to come in here and try to make the organization look bad.
"These gentlemen put their necks on the line for me, so I want to make sure I do whatever I can to make sure they look good at all times for me and myself and my whole family."
For former University of Maryland star Torrey Smith, his journey to the NFL meant dealing with his mother, Monica Jenkins, frequently being a victim of domestic violence in her relationships with men.
And his mother once got into a violent altercation with a female relative and pleaded guilty to felony unlawful wounding and had to serve time in a Virginia prison. Now, she’s doing well.
Smith is the oldest of seven children. At a young age in Fredericksburg, Va., he had to become the man of the house.
"I felt like it helped me a lot," said Torrey Smith, whose mother and several siblings were sitting in the front row while he got introduced by the Ravens. "I had to mature a lot faster than a lot of guys. I’ve been faced with adversity all my life, and the same thing on the field.
"There are going to be times in the game during the season and during your career where you’re going to be faced with adversity, and I know which way to go. I’m going to try to do my best to stay on top of things and make sure I’m leading the team the right way."
Looking on with pride at her oldest son, Monica Jenkins recalled how far the family has come since she gave birth to him when she was barely old enough to obtain a driver’s license.
Now, her son is a second-round draft pick being counted on to provide the Ravens with the deep threat they’ve been missing for years.
"Yes, it’s very overwhelming and a dream come true," Jenkins said. "I’m very proud because a lot of children would have turned to drugs or turned to alcohol. We stayed strong. We were all we had in those days.
"I’ve always taught my children because I was a troubled teen to don’t do as I do, do as I say. Even though I’m doing wrong, I’ll tell you the right thing to do. Torrey is a great person. I can’t say enough about how proud I am."
Smith draws high marks for character.
He’s 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."
As Jimmy Smith was drafted Friday night, he was wearing a black T-shirt with a character from the gangster movie "Scarface" emblazoned across his chest.
A day later, he was dressed for success.
Smith smiled when asked about his casual attire from the day before.
It was another example of the kind of scrutiny he regularly faces due to his past misbehavior.
"No, it was just a Scarface t-shirt, and I had an opportunity to wear it," Smith said. "I was at home, and I didn’t think I was really going to see anybody."
Smith’s youthful indiscretions are mild compared to the trouble he escaped growing up near Los Angeles in the small town of Colton, Calif.
Raised by a single mother and an older brother after his father abandoned them, Jimmy Smith and his family were in and out of homeless shelters during his formative years.
And it took a lot for Smith to stay free from the scourge of gangs that dominated his neighborhood
"There are a lot of Hispanic gangs around, a lot of gangs in general," Jimmy Smith said. "As far as trouble, I just tried to stay away from it. I have friends that last week got murdered. It’s a rough neighborhood. Not many people come out of San Bernardino in general, so I’m truly blessed to make it out.
"I have a really strong supporting cast. My brother, he’s the one that raised me. So, he kept me in line. My coaches in high school always kept me in line, so they’re the ones that pretty much helped me make it out."
Both Smiths share the same surnames.
Both have the same agent in Drew Rosenhaus.
"My first name is James, and his is Jimmy," Torrey Smith said.
And Jimmy Smith replied: "My first name is James."
"There, so we’ve got that in common, too," Torrey Smith said. "Technically, we’re both James Smith."
Drafted with the 27th overall pick, the Ravens are counting the 6-foot-2, 211-pound speedster to become the first shutdown cornerback on the roster since the days of a similarly talented, enigmatic player in Chris McAlister.
Like Jimmy Smith, McAlister had his own set of problems that included arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of marijuana.
The former Pro Bowl cornerback is now out of football. Jimmy Smith has also been compared to Aqib Talib.
"I don’t mind being compared to anybody as long as they’re a good player," he said. "Just don’t compare me to a slouch."
The Ravens selected Torrey Smith with the 58th overall pick to inject speed into a receiving corps that rarely made big plays downfield.
Smith has 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash. And he caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards last season, setting a Terrapins record with a dozen touchdown catches.
"We are a better organization today," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We are a better football team today because of these two young men."
The Ravens have extremely big plans for the Smith tandem.
"These two guys are going to be integral in what we’re trying to do as a football team," coach John Harbaugh said. "They’re not just the type of players we like, but they are the type of players that fit us, the type of players we need. They have good hearts. They play hard. They work hard. They come from good families."
The Ravens’ rookies are already displaying teamwork and camaraderie.
As soon as Jimmy Smith had defended his character for the umpteenth time in the past few months, Torrey Smith was sticking up for him with a verbal body block.
"I’ve had the opportunity to know Jimmy myself, getting to know him over the process, and he’s a great guy," Torrey Smith said. "The way the media tries to portray him, I feel that’s not him. He’s a great guy, he’s down to earth and these things are in the past. So, I just feel like people should focus more on what he’s about to do from this day forward."