Benefit of the doubt
Perception driving UCF's Smith as he preps for draft
Posted: Thursday January 24, 2008 10:25AM; Updated: Thursday January 24, 2008 10:25AM
DAVIE, Fla. -- NFL draft prospect Kevin Smith, who led the nation in rushing and scoring last season at Central Florida, uses his eyesight to see the cuts and moves he needs to make on the field. But he also has the vision to see greatness where others can only find only mediocrity.
"I can't really see that well from far away, but if you put a ball in my hands, I can see the Statue of Liberty from here," joked Smith, who was a half-hour north of his hometown of Miami as he said this.
"I'm not bragging, but if you ask me, no other running back in the draft has my vision. That's why you don't see me take big hits. That's why I have a knack for scoring touchdowns. That's why my carries-to-turnover ratio is excellent. It's my vision, my smarts and my competitive fire."
It is Smith's competitiveness that helped him decide to leave Central Florida after his record-breaking junior season, one in which he ran for 2,567 yards, scored 30 touchdowns and was named a first-team All-America by SI.com. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder saw other top running backs give up their senior seasons, including Darren McFadden of Arkansas, Jonathan Stewart of Oregon and Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois -- all projected first-round picks.
"Don't let me be the last [top] running back in college," he said. "If all the best guys are coming out, then I want to battle with them for the first round. I am a competitive guy."
Toward that end, Smith will attend the NFL Combine Feb. 20 in Indianapolis and will work out for select NFL teams in March. The general consensus is that he's a second-round pick, at best. But Smith, who signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus last weekend, is working to change that perception.
Since deciding to turn pro on Jan. 8, he has been training with Pete Bommarito at the Perfect Competition facility in Davie. There, he and 35 other prospects train six days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The athletes are placed on specific diets designed to maximize their potential and are also put through an agonizing gauntlet of weightlifting and speed-running drills.
"Pete won today," Smith said of his hard-driving trainer. "He got the best of me."
Smith gets his share of wins, though, even when he is in the classroom taking the controversial Wonderlic test, which most NFL teams use to judge a player's intelligence.
"I don't know why they think that is so important," Smith said. "I am not claiming to be the smartest guy around, but I got a 16 the first time I took the test, which is about average for running backs."
He's not so free with information when it comes to his 40-yard dash time. The knock on Smith is that while he is a tough, durable and productive back, he lacks the game-breaking speed that would vault him up the draft board.
"It's a secret," he said of his current 40 time. "My goal is to be under a 4.45. I know that's what the scouts want to see. Let me put it like this: I've never been bad at anything that I have worked at. And I'm working at this hard."
Among other things, Bommarito tapes Smith's runs and then breaks it down with his pupil. "Kevin had some deficiencies in his start technique and in the way he decelerated before the finish line," Bommarito said. "He overcame those deficiencies very quickly."