A player not known widely around the NFL is about to become a household name. With the announcement of his fifth year option, Jimmy Smith isn't flying under the radar anymore. But with a player so talented, why isn't he in the conversation?
In 2011, Jimmy Smith was looked at as one of the top prospects of the corner back position with his great size of 6'2" and 210 lbs, well above average strength, and bona fide press man coverage. Unfortunately, problems arose as a 'rap sheet' filled with information of Smith's past; two arrests for minor in possession of alcohol, an aggravated assault charge, and three reported drug test failures. Suddenly, Jimmy's past overshadowed Smiths' impressive intangibles. Soon enough clubs began shying away from a player with such character issues, and when the draft finally arrived, Jimmy Smith dropped from projected 13th with Detroit, to 27th as Ozzie Newsomes' Baltimore selection. What transpired early was difficult to judge, as the first play Jimmy participated in his NFL career ended as a high ankle sprain, seizing him away for 5 games. Continually riddled with injuries, Jimmy could not compete for starting jobs and kept him away from the expected starting corner back. Through multiple years of special teams play and back-up CB, fans began labeling Jimmy a draft bust.
Year in and year out Jimmy had not filled the expectations of that 27th overall title surrounding his name. Some fans shouted bust. People believed Smith couldn't keep up, and he wasn't proving himself. In three years he sat at 3rd on the depth chart behind Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb. Progress was showing, but not enough to keep away the pessimistic onlookers. But in two plays, two of the most important plays in Baltimore history changed everything for number 22.
Goal line stand. The chance to win the Superbowl rested on 4 plays, and the Baltimore Raven defense. A script could not be wrote better than what history played out. The 49er offense on the 7 yard line. A first down hand-off results in a two yard gain. Second down concluded in an incomplete pass as Kaepernick rolled off to his right. Third down. Enter Jimmy Smith.
Smith lined up on the right side. Third and Goal from the five yard line. Ball snapped, and passed towards Michael Crabtree. Jimmy flies in and forces an incomplete pass as Crabtree couldn't hold on. Fourth and goal, game on the line. Jimmy Smith lined up once more on the right. Kaepernick floats one his way, and the ball lands to the turf, incomplete. In those two plays Jimmy rose to the occasion, and something clicked. He stopped two goal line plays and Super Bowl XLVII was all but theirs. Tearing away not only the label of 'draft bust', but now putting on a new title of Super Bowl XLVII Champion.
Jimmy Smiths' Welcoming Party
Jimmy didn't come in strong with the turn of a new season, but then again, nobody else on the Baltimore defense did. Peyton Manning and his Denver team went to work on Baltimore, and let the NFL know the Broncos were here for business. The Sheriff personally flicked 49 points on Baltimore. Tying the NFL record for seven passing touchdowns, and Jimmy Smith only allowing one. But as the season wore on, Jimmy became something more. Leading the defense, not necessarily giving out defensive adjustments as linebackers do, but rather leading by example.
Smith is Challenged
Midway through the 2013-14 season Smith was asked to shadow opposing teams WR1. Following them and play man coverage, and attempt to shut down the number one receiving threat. Smith accepted the opportunity, and proved his worth.
First up, Flash Gordon. The 2013-14 NFL receiving yards leader was a terrifying opponent. Jimmy's assignment, keep him away from the pigskin. Smith proceeded to quarantine Josh from his Cleveland team with allowing only 4 receptions and 44 yards. Such a strong showing gathered little attention from the NFL, but Ravens fans were filled with hope.
After an outstanding game, Jimmy once again followed the number wide out. This time a Cincinnati Bengal weapon; AJ Green. A top 5 NFL receiver who is known for always possessing an outstanding performance. AJ's past 4 games showing a stellar outcome with 500 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jimmy laced his cleats tight and worked a difficult match resulting in 7 completions and 100 yards. Unfortunately, Smith's stellar game was shadowed by a strange outcome. A last second hail mary became tipped twice and landed in the hands of who else but AJ Green, resulting in a 51 yard touchdown. What then proceeded sparked a fire in Smith, yelling and pouring his frustration into the ears of teammate James Ihedigbo who had swatted the last ditch effort up in the air and allowing AJ's completion. Ravens fans rejoiced as Jimmy had showed something in this game. Battling AJ Green and keeping him out of the end zone, and showing passion when a teammate had made a critical mistake.
With a fan base spewing confidence, Jimmy took to Chicago with yet the same plan and stood in front of Brandon Marshall. A veteran receiver who can do it all. Marshall was putting up points the past two weeks with 3 touchdowns on 14 catches for 246 yards. Smith followed the receiving star and proved he was no longer 'just an NFL corner' but rather Baltimore's best corner. Marshall was blanketed by number 22. Jimmy held Brandon to 47 yards on 4 receptions, and for the third week straight kept a wide receiver from the end zone.
Ford Field Confrontation
The Baltimore Ravens arriving in Detroit were faced with a match-up that became surrounded in controversy. Rookie safety Matt Elam was asked about #1 NFL receiving threat Calvin Johnson, or better known as "Megatron" and mistakenly spouted, "He's pretty old, so I don't know how physical he'll be. He's a big guy, but he's older. I guess when they get older they're not going to be as physical, you know what I'm saying? We're going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable." No no no no! The man is named after a transformer and you call him old and not physical? Thanks Matt. A pissed of Megatron isn't what we need. But Jimmy Smith came to the rescue. Megatron malfunctioned and dropped 2 passes. Smith also playing his heart out put Calvin's stat sheet at 6 receptions, 98 yards, and a blank in the touchdown column.
Why Such An Extreme Turnaround?
From college to the NFL, the transition is worse than a nightmare. Some players just can't hack it. The size, speed, and talent level is such an obstacle it's difficult to understand. In basic terms of just offense and defense, an NFL team and a college team both compose of 22 players, 11 offense 11 defense. The NFL team is composed of 22 NFL caliber players, whereas a college team may not contain a single one.
In the case of Jimmy Smith, he may have played a total of 5 NFL caliber wide receivers in his college years, but when arriving in the NFL, he lined up against an NFL receiver each week. To add, the NFL corner back position is one of the most difficult and unforgiving positions in all of sports. You are guarding some of the best physical specimens in the world. Fast, agile, strong, and they have the upper hand. They have a set route, and as a corner, your job is to react with such speed you can stop the play. Jimmy took a very long time to adjust, but it makes sense when shown how difficult the job.
He may have taken a bit long to adjust, but it wasn't too long. Jimmy Smith is a surefire star corner back for the Baltimore Ravens. The teams commitment towards the young gun from Colorado paid off, all that is left is $6.898 million for the 5th year option, and a long term deal to keep Jimmy Smith in a Raven uniform.