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"When I read what [Nawrocki] wrote about Cam [who nonetheless went to Carolina with the No. 1 pick], I thought, This guy's got balls," says one veteran NFL scout. "He was pretty accurate. But with some of the stuff about Geno, he's way off base. I thought it was irresponsible and not accurate."
Not surprisingly, it has been Nawrocki's attacks on Smith's work ethic, commitment, intelligence and passion for football that have generated the most controversy—and pushback.
"Nonchalant field presence," the report goes on. "Does not command respect from teammates and cannot inspire. Mild practice demeanor—no urgency. Not committed or focused—marginal work ethic. Interviewed poorly at the combine and did not show an understanding of concepts on the white board. Not a student of the game...."
Not a student of the game? "I was shocked by that," says Jake Spavital, who was Smith's position coach last year in Morgantown. Now a co--offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Spavital wondered briefly whether Nawrocki's report might be an April Fools' Day prank.
Says Alex Hammond, West Virginia's director of football operations, "I remember leaving the offices at 1 a.m. after the Baylor game"—Smith had completed 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions in a 70--63 win—"and Geno was still there, sitting in a dark room, watching video," looking for big plays that he'd left on the table.
"Geno will see the safeties spinning down," says Tavon Austin, a slot receiver who played four years with Smith in Morgantown, "and know [that a blitz] is coming from the direction they're rotating away from. He's smart."
And while he didn't return SI's call, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen tweeted one day after the report, "Geno's the hardest practicing QB & most gifted student of the game I've coached."
He doesn't work through his progressions? Never? All of his 42 touchdown passes last season—against six picks—went to his primary receiver? Hmm.
Did not show an understanding of concepts on the whiteboard? "I was in there when our coaches had [Smith] on the board," says one AFC director of player personnel. "He wasn't good. He was outstanding. He was a maestro on that board. He was phenomenal."
Smith seems more puzzled by the report than pissed off. "If you talk to anyone who knows me," he says, "I don't think you'll find anyone who could honestly say I'm not dedicated to football." He makes this observation en route to the Philly airport, from the backseat of an SUV driven by an Eagles front-office factotum. Cruising over the Platt Memorial Bridge, they look down on a gritty, industrial scene: belching smokestacks, refinery tanks, a wastewater treatment plant.