Jimmy Smith Rewarding Ravens Leap of Faith

Jimmy Smith Ravens

“He’s as athletically gifted as Asomugha. He’s got all the ability in the world. He also could be a supreme punk.” ~ NFC Personnel Director

 

The physical parallels to Nnamdi Asomugha were undeniable. Their height, speed, Scouting Combine results and intelligence all nearly mirror images. Could Jimmy Smith make the leap from the Colorado Buffaloes to the NFL and become a regular at the Pro Bowl the way Asomugha had?

Many had their doubts and it had nothing to do with Smith’s potential to create chaos for NFL quarterbacks. The doubts were rooted in his potential for off-the-field chaos.

In 2011 some believed that Smith possessed the most upside of any of the collegiate corners in that April’s NFL Draft yet he tumbled as predicted by many, to the bottom of Round 1 despite talent that screamed Top 15 pick.

Blame those hard to shake character red flags.

 

“Jimmy Smith is a carbon copy of Aqib Talib,” said an executive in 2011 who had dealings with both players. “This guy will be the same way.

 

Smith was for the most part raised by his brother in a rough California town called Colton in San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles. The town’s streets are laced with gangs – murders are not uncommon.

Trouble was always close by and it’s understandable how outsiders could develop stereotypes for the residents of Colton. Some from Smith’s family couldn’t escape the town’s evil temptations and found themselves in and out of jail. The association chased away recruiters from USC and UCLA despite Smith’s impressive physical talents.

Jimmy, with his brother’s guidance, steered clear of the gangs yet he still found trouble. While at Colorado he flunked three drug tests including one for misusing codeine. Smith also had alcohol-related violations and was linked to a pair of abortions paid for by the parents of the women he impregnated.

There was also an arrest for assault.

Clearly there was reason for concern. On the surface the violations seemed extreme and hardly worthy of an investment of millions.

 

“I think Jimmy Smith will be a shutdown corner,” said Don Gregory, director of college scouting for the Carolina Panthers. “He’s got that Rod Woodson size. He’s a press guy. When he wants to play, I think he can be one of the best.”

 

There are those who often recite an overused cliché, “a leopard can’t change its spots.” That isn’t exactly true 100% of the time. It undermines the potential for character development. With the right guidance, mentoring and leadership, people can and do change.

Looking back upon Smith’s formidable years and given the crime-infected neighborhood in which he grew up, relatively speaking, are the things he did that heinous? Are they any different than some of the growing pains of teenagers from wealthy families?

We might quickly write off a rich kid’s transgressions as “kids will be kids” but if the same things happen to someone from the mean streets of Colton, CA who just so happens to have pro football talent, then he gets labeled a “punk”.

Maybe the accusers should have taken the time to try and walk a mile in Smith’s shoes to really get a feel for his life’s journey.

The Baltimore Ravens did, and now that he seems to be beyond the nagging injuries that derailed his first two seasons in the NFL, Smith is rewarding the team’s faith in him when they made him the 27th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.

On the field Smith is now more physical in man assignments and effective in press coverage. Plus after some early season issues with technique he’s worked to correct the flaws and as of late Smith has been fundamentally sound, proven by results.

Over the course of the last 9 games only 20 passes thrown Smith’s way have been completed while opposing QB’s have struggled to the tune of a 68.5 passer rating. Comparatively speaking Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman when targeted this season have yielded 65.1 and 66.1 passer ratings respectively.

The talent has always been there. Everyone is now beginning to see what most expected from Smith as a player. What the naysayers haven’t seen are the off-the-field issues they expected – not a single peep.

When Smith was first introduced to the Baltimore media he was peppered with questions targeting his character. The well-spoken Californian handled the questions with patience, confidence and poise, qualities that have now become part of his game on the field.

And while he didn’t need an assist during that presser, draft classmate Torrey Smith stepped up and showed some leadership of his own.

“Going off of what he said, I’ve had the opportunity to know Jimmy myself, getting to know him over the process, and he’s a great guy. 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 like you said, 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.”

We’ve seen this before with players who enter the Ravens locker room. Surrounded by solid role models, mentored by positional coaches with a knack for teaching and embraced by a great organization, players can and will improve if they are open to it. Smith, perhaps still influenced by the guiding hand of his brother, apparently was and is now another of the Ravens locker room success stories.

When asked about Smith, Assistant GM Eric DeCosta recently shared this with RSR:

“He’s an extreme professional who has worked very hard to be a top corner. His attitude and his maturity as a player have been huge bright spots this season. He’s become an asset to our defense as a player and as a leader.”

During that introductory presser back in April of 2011, Jimmy Smith while explaining that he wanted to move on from admittedly bad mistakes ended his discussion with this:

“I’m looking, from here on out, to be the best player and person on and off the field that I can be.”

If recent trends are any indication opposing quarterbacks will certainly proceed with caution on the field.

Off the field the Ravens are glad those executives who picked before them in the 2011 NFL Draft proceeded with caution in their respective war rooms while considering this potential “punk.”

In the end, maybe it’s those execs who were punked!

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured, Lombardi's Way by Tony Lombardi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

6 Raves on “Jimmy Smith Rewarding Ravens Leap of Faith

  1. Bmoreskyandsea on said:

    Yeah – hung out with him, his brother, and best friend (both of whom he has put on his payroll) after his first season and all they wanted to do was find girls and get high. Not a fan.

  2. bogeyroy on said:

    TL,

    Great article…we have a guy that sits behind us that constantly trashes Smith. This past week the folks around me tried their best to educate this idiot. His reply was “I call Smith a Match, because he gets torched every time” I know he loves Webb (as do I), so my question to him was “why do you think teams are throwing Webb’s way more this year”…of course he doesn’t see that.

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as he is one of those fans that trashes every play that doesn’t work, and trashes 15-20 Ravens players constantly….he’s just a charm for all of us to sit around and listen to his useless comments every game. For the life of me, I don’t know why he even shows up with the attitude he has towards the Ravens.

    • Rudy on said:

      Excuse me, but the mistake is feeding into a ‘fan” who is abusing his right to cheer at games, if he is not breaking the laws of the stadium venue, try to focus in on the parts of the action that you love, he really is entitled to be as wrong as he wants to be, and in fact you are encouraging him by exchanging and giving him your attention instead of the thrilling contest in front of you. Those are not the kinds of cheers that comprise the “twelfth man”. Actually some folks go to games to see the live extra-curricular drama in the stands, they look quite good on HDTV, but not remotely close to the true ambience, of which these types are part. I sit and home this year and every time someone here trashes him(yeah, they do) I think warmly to the one that he did make, somehow coinciding with Crabtree to end the ‘Niners’ dream comeback. He never has to step on the field again for me to be an all-time Ravens great. Great personal growth by him, and them overcoming the rash of injuries is the heart of Ray Lewis’ new legacy. May happen again.

      • bogeyroy on said:

        I hear ya Rudy, but you aren’t sitting directly in front of a very loud, very obnoxious person, who obviously is uneducated regarding what has been going on right in front of him. You are correct, he is entitled to his opinion (after evry freaking play)…but I have had season tix to Baltimore NFL games since 1961, and I, and the others around really don’t need to hear, or care about his opinion after every play.

        As far as feeding him, no, we were trying to teach him…but apparently he knows everything about anything.

        I honestly wish you could sit there game after game and hear him…my money says you will feel just like the 20-30 of us that cringe when he opens his mouth.

        He is welcome to his opinions, but we do not need to hear every single one of them for 3 plus hours every game.

  3. JerryB on said:

    People sometimes forget that these gifted athletes are still “kids” when they get to the pros and need maturity. Other times, the little “light” just has to “click”….on! Whether either or both are the case here, let’s just hope for his sake and the Ravens’, that he’s found his….groove!

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