Sticking around pays off for Geno
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For most of Geno Smith's life, he was able to control the bad things that happened to him.
He just worked a little harder each time and made them better.
Thursday night, though, there was little he could do about his lot. Perhaps if he could have snuck away to study some film or lift a few weights or something, he might have at least felt better about things.
But he couldn't. There he sat - now famously - in the green room at the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The world - or at least the portion that seems obsessed with the NFL draft - watched him squirm through a first round in which his name wasn't called.
And here's the real kicker: He came back the next night and risked doing it all over again.
"Just talking to all my supporters and everyone who had watched the draft, everyone from my high school and my university,'' Smith said. "Everyone just wanted me to remain here and to walk across that stage and to stand up and to represent them all.''
And so he did. His Friday night wasn't nearly as uncomfortable, of course, and it had little to do with the fact that he traded in his first-night suit for a second-night sweater his mom had gone out and bought for him that day. It was mostly because it was just seven picks into that second round before the Jets called his name.
And, in truth, maybe in some small part it was because Smith decided to return for the second day of the draft - he didn't have to, he could have just gone home - that the Jets chose him. OK, so his ability to throw the football and run an offense was the primary reason, but still, if a guy can't handle what Smith went through on Thursday night and return for more, what chance does he have of succeeding as a quarterback in the media capital of the world?
"There was never an issue of me not wanting to come back,'' said Smith, who heard reports to the contrary that had floated around beginning with his rather abrupt exit from the building late Thursday night. "I declined interviews [Thursday night after the first round] because I was going out with my mother. I left a little early and I know a big deal was made of it, but we just kind of got out of there. I knew I wasn't going to be picked at the end of the first round, so I just wanted to make sure I got out of there before the media was able to get all up in her face.''
Not that the media wouldn't have been all up in Smith's face, either. After all, there was an easy and natural story line there to follow on Thursday night. From roughly the middle of that first round on, the comparisons to Aaron Rodgers began and escalated. It was Rodgers who expected to be taken with one of the early picks in his draft eight years earlier and he slipped all the way to No. 24. Smith one-upped him by slipping all the way to the second round and the 39th pick.
"You know, I watched that draft and I watched Aaron go through that,'' Smith said. "It's kind of ironic to see that and then you're put in that position.
"It was a test of patience. And I'm a patient guy. All of those guys who got picked ahead of me are deserving, so there's no bitterness toward them or any of those teams. I'm just ready to get in and play football again.''
There are always up sides to what Smith went through. Yes, he probably lost as much as $10 million on his initial NFL contract. And yes, there's the pride element involved.
But think about it. Had Smith gone somewhere in the first round, he would certainly have been expected to step in and play right away. Second-round guys have a little bit of leeway in that regard as far as expectations are concerned, although his New York destination pretty much wipes that out. Expectations and pressure are always high there.
There's also the motivation factor. Although Smith denies it, there has to be a part of him that says, "I'll show you.''
"I'm not going to sit here and say it's something I'm going to use as fuel or extra motivation,'' Smith said. "I'm already motivated. Just being in this position is a blessing for me. So I'm just going to smile as much as I can but remember all the things that happened.''
All things considered, maybe things couldn't have worked out much better.
"You know what? Like I said all along, whichever team decided to take me and decided to bring me in maybe as a franchise guy or maybe as a project, you never know how the situation may end,'' Smith said. "But to be a Jet is a dream come true for me. I've been watching football my entire life and the Jets have one of the most storied organizations in the NFL. So I'm just elated and ready to get to work.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.