DeVonta Smith had an historic season in 2020, becoming the first wide receiver in over two decades to win the Heisman Trophy after racking up 117 catches for 1,856 yards and an absurd 23 touchdowns for the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Smith’s college success has made him a top prospect for the 2021 Draft, as his senior season in the spotlight as Alabama’s top receiver allowed him to show his full potential after spending years as part of the nation’s most crowded and competitive receiver room.
Still, as Draft day approaches next Thursday, there are plenty who have questions for Smith, chiefly regarding his weight after he reportedly came in at 166 pounds at the NFL’s medical combine in Indy. Smith has always had a slight frame but it’s never stopped him from dominating top competition. His elite footwork, speed, and long arms make him capable of getting out of jams, getting in and out of breaks, and hauling in contested catches even over heavier defenders. Those questions linger, but Smith doesn’t worry about them. He knows what his tape shows and is ready to bring that to whatever team drafts him next Thursday night.
We got a chance to talk to Smith over Zoom earlier this week on behalf of VRST, a new clothing line exclusively at Dick’s Sporting Goods that Smith chose to sign with over various other outfitters. We talked about why he chose them to partner with, as well as his draft prep, the biggest lessons learned from his time at Alabama, leadership, becoming a student of the game and more.
We’re now one week away from the draft. When you look back on the last few months of when you’ve really been able to dive into draft prep what have you felt has been your focus and is there anything in particular that you feel like you’ve really been able to dial in the last few months?
Really just getting stronger and just making sure that my hamstrings are strong. So just doing a lot of hamstring work, just in a weight room every day and conditioning, just making sure I stay in shape.
You come from a program that has become Wide Receiver U in a sense with so many guys that have gone to the league. What have you been able to talk to your former teammates like Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs about what you can expect coming into the league and what kind of advice have you been able to get from them?
Really the big thing with them was the change of pace of game. Just the way that the game is played in the NFL, you have to be in more shape than you were in college. So that was really the main thing is being more in shape.
How tired are you have the questions about your weight and have you gotten to a point where you just tell folks to look at the tape and look at what I’ve been able to do, because I know it’s got to be something that you get asked about over and over?
I mean, I don’t care. I let people talk about what they want to talk about. It is what it is, you’re going to get what you’re gonna get.
Obviously you had a tremendous career at Alabama. Is there a moment that really stands out that you look back on fondly from your time in Tuscaloosa?
I would say really just every game when it was like adversity and just in close games the way the team came together and everybody was just locked in, everybody was on the same page, and everybody was just there helping each other. Offense helping the defense, defense helping the offense, so everybody’s just picking each other up.
Coming from a program like that that put so many guys in the league, I mean, I mentioned the draft prep the last few months, but do you feel like your four years there has been in a sense preparing you for the Draft the entire time?
Yeah, when you go to Alabama they prepare you for everything. So just coming into this process, it really wasn’t too hard. It wasn’t nothing that ever really caught me off guard because Alabama prepared me for all of that.
From when you came in as a freshman to now where do you think you’ve grown the most as a player and really developed the skill set that you think is going to make you successful in the NFL?
things on offense and why the defense is doing the things that they do. So just knowing, why I’m doing something and when I go out there, I just know everything. I know what the majority of people on the field supposed to be doing, so just being a leader in that aspect that if somebody don’t know, you’re able to help them.
I’m sure a lot of that comes from film work. When did you really learn to dive in on that because that’s something for young guys can take some time from them to really embrace. When did that really become a big part of your routine?
I would say my first year. When you come in, that’s the main thing. You’re going to watch a lot of film and you’re gonna be in meetings a lot. So like, that becomes the everyday routine. So just going to Alabama knowing that that’s what you’re going to do, it just rubs off on you and you just catch yourself doing it on your own.
And the competition level that you’ve had in that wide receiver room the last few years has been rather ridiculous. What does that do to push you to continue to make yourself better knowing that if you don’t, the guy next to you for sure is?
It makes everybody better, because, one you can learn from the guy beside you. So everybody’s helping each other to be the best person that they can be. And then it also teaches you to just keep working and don’t never get caught slipping because one wrong move and you could be out of there and then next man up. So it definitely teaches you to always work hard and to never take a day off.
You’re coming off a Heisman winning season and coming into the Draft you’ve got a lot of options for who you want to align yourself with. Why did you want to work with VRST and what drew you to this partnership?
With VRST is just how versatile the whole clothing line is from on the field to off the field to when you have business meetings, things like that. It’s just so much that you can do and then me being one of the first people that they partner with is just — that’s an opportunity that you just can’t pass up. So I mean it was a huge opportunity. The door was right there so I just ran with it.
Like you said, you’re on the ground floor of this and what do you see is the potential for this for this brand and what do you think people are going to be able to like about them as they learn a little more about it?
You can get everything that you’re looking for. You can get the style, the comfort, the performance, just everything. Whether its you want to go work out in something, you want to get dressed for a business meeting, or you just want to chill around the house. I mean, they have everything you’re looking for so I believe it’s going to take off in a big way.
You’ve obviously met with plenty of teams and what have you told them about what they’ll be getting both in a player and a person when they draft DeVonta Smith?
Just a guy who’s gonna come in, day in and day out, who’s gonna make the person across from him better. Gonna come in every day, not gonna take no days off and is gonna be a leader from day one.