There are few better ways to improve your draft stock than winning a national championship. Former Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith’s name is flying up draft boards after his Buckeyes made an improbable run through the first College Football Playoff, topping it off with a victory over Oregon to win it all. Smith was a beast down the stretch, racking up 137 yards and three touchdowns in a 59-0 blowout of Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship, then grabbing another touchdown in an upset over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
As he turns his focus toward the NFL Combine, Smith wants to ensure he’s not just seen as a speedster who excels at running the go route. STACK caught up with Smith at EXOS training facility in Carlsbad, California, to chat about his rising draft stock, training for the NFL Combine and what separates him from everyone else.
STACK: You got out here a little late because of the National Championship and Senior Bowl. What’s your first week been like?
Devin Smith: My first week out here has been going very good. The running and lifting part, it’s not too hard to get back in the swing of things. We played a long season, so the conditioning will always be there. So far I’ve enjoyed it, all the guys welcomed me in, made me feel like I’ve been here for a while; so far it’s all good.
How much do you think you and your team’s performance elevated your draft stock?
I think it helped me. Especially the back end of the season. I think it really helped my draft stock. From the Michigan State game all the way up, I think that really has helped me. I think the main concern for a lot of these coaches is why wasn’t I on the field as much as I should have been with some of the plays I made toward the end of the season. But they know that I can play and they know I can make plays for my team.
You just finished playing in your final game a few weeks ago. How’s your body responded to training?
My body is feeling pretty good right now. Not too achy, not too sore. Feeling just right and coming in here and working on specific things that I need to work on like my route running and my lifting. A lot of techniques that it takes to run some of these drills we do in the Combine. It’s really helped that my body has been keeping up really well.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve been working on?
A lot of things, really technique-wise. I’ve ran track all my life, so I’ve got the gist of it. It’s really the technical things with my start and things like that. That’s what I’m focusing on.
Are you trying to show that you are more than just a deep threat?
I think last week at the senior Bowl gave me a chance to show I can run all the other routes besides the go route. So now I think they do know I can run all the other routes. Now I’m out here refining my skills and focusing on the things I need to get better at.
What separates you from other wide receivers in this class?
I think the speed. Speed is one thing that I can really show at the Combine. When we were catching the ball, I think my hand-eye coordination really tracked the ball down. I think I’m really good at that. I think I can apply that to the Combine and on to the season. I think that’s one thing that separates me from the other guys.
What’s it been like training with guys you’ve played against in the Big 10?
I think it’s been real good to build relationships. Especially after we get drafted or the Combine. Coming out here and really helping each other get better.
What does the NFL Combine represent to you?
I think the Combine is really to show how athletic you are. I think all the GMs and coaches and scouts, they know what you can do on the football field because they have tape from college. I think the Combine is a chance to go out there and show your athleticism.
Coaches like to see the mental side of the game from you as well. What does that entail?
Just watching film and breaking it down a little bit. Drawing up plays and trying to get into that mindset just to get me ready.
What was it like playing multiple sports at Ohio State?
I’ve played multiple sports all my life, so it was really nothing when I got to the next level. Being at the top, one of the guys in the Big 10 high jumping, I think it just showed the hard work that I put it in. A lot of dedication went into that. Playing football, then going to track and still competing at a high level. It really just shows my dedication to hard work.
What are you looking forward to the most at the NFL level?
What I’m looking forward to the most is going out there and showing what I can do. My ability to make plays is another skill I’m ready to do at the next level.
Any particular offensive system you think you’d be a great fit in?
I think I can fit wherever they have a great quarterback that can throw the ball and a good group of receivers that can help me since I’m young.
What’s inspiring you to make it in the pros?
Really, my family. I’m real huge on family, and my biggest inspiration is, whenever I go home I want to see a smile on everyone’s face in my family. Wherever I get drafted, they will be happy. That’s the biggest motivator for me.
Read more about the stars of the 2015 NFL Draft.