LOQUITUR EXCLUSIVE | Smith recalls Rutgers

By Shane Evans
December 8, 2006

Drew Hallowell

No matter how many years Eagles fourth year tight end enjoys playing in the top tier of competitive football, the National Football League, he’ll never forget his roots at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

“Whatever school you come from, you should always be proud of that,” Smith said of his four years at Rutgers.

“Everybody has different experiences because some guys transfer and some guys may not like the school or may not have a good time. I mean, we didn’t win many games, but Rutgers is a prideful school and we get a lot of respect in the state and outside of the state. So being from there, you feel good about where you’re coming from.”

Drafted late in the second round by the Eagles in the 2003 NFL Draft, Smith has flourished ever since he became the starter in 2005. During that season, he set career highs of 61 receptions, 682 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Smith accredited a lot of his success in college to the fact that he was constantly around his team and they had a different kind of closeness that is hard to find in the NFL.

“Just the locker room,” Smith said of one of the biggest things he missed about his experience at Rutgers.

“You are growing up together with guys, you’re hanging out more. You are experiencing the same things, going through the same things at the same time. Living together is another huge thing because we are constantly together, at the times where we really are learning a lot about each other and ourselves. Definitely just hanging out with the guys was huge.”

A native of Highland Park, New Jersey, Smith was exposed to Eagles fans before he was drafted by the Philadelphia franchise in 2003. He didn’t however; realize the immense difference between Scarlet Knights’ fans and those that follow the green and silver.

“Philly fans are very outspoken, they don’t really hold any punches,” Smith said of the infamously brutal Eagles patrons. “At Rutgers they were a little more relaxed and it was more of a school spirit type of thing, which is definitely expected because these are your classmates and people you live with so they tend to be a bit more forgiving. Eagles fans are just a lot more.passionate.”

With his college years fading further into the past, Smith likes to remember how things were at Rutgers and all the things he was able to accomplish. With the program’s revitalization of the last two seasons, Smith has been able to boast to his Eagles teammates about their success.

Today, since the spotlight is strictly focused on his old stomping grounds, Smith says that things would be different if he were there today. Despite their recent success and national attention, the big tight end who aspires to be a musician and is teaching himself how to play the guitar in his free time, said that the playing level in college is nothing compared to what it’s been like for him in the NFL.

“The intensity and the expectations,” Smith said of the biggest differences between college and the pros. “Everything is fast paced and serious. There is really no down time. You are always in the spot light. Being at Rutgers then, wasn’t like being at Rutgers now. We weren’t winning games, so there weren’t as many expectations, so when people talked about us, it wasn’t always positive.”

With another successful season in the NFL nearly in the books, Smith has made a great transition to football’s highest level and has been widely regarded as one of the best young players at his position. But no matter how good Smith gets or what he does in this league, he still keeps things in perspective that he is living out his dream.

“Just living out your dream,” Smith said of being a player in the NFL. “Being that you are one of the best of the best. It doesn’t get any better. There’s not another level, besides the Pro Bowl. You’re playing against the best every week. Not like college where you have a couple teams you are supposed to beat and you know you’re going to win and should win. Here, it’s any given Sunday with the best of the best, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

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Shane Evans

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