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Nolan Smith is channeling that ‘BG knowledge’


Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

PHILADELPHIA – The standard is high at the University of Georgia after consecutive national championships but it didn’t come with an entitlement card, at least for the “Philly Bulldogs.”

GM Howie Roseman went to Georgia early and often over the past two years when it came to roster building.

In 2022 the Eagles’ GM made a targeted trade-up to get Bulldogs defensive tackle Jordan Davis at the No. 13 overall and he doubled down with linebacker Nakobe Dean in the third round. This spring provided even more of a Georgia tint with the targeted trade-up being for Davis’ old running mate at DT, Jalen Carter at No. 9, followed by edge rusher Nolan Smith at No. 30. The trend didn’t stop there as Roseman hit Day 3 of the draft by trading with Detroit for Philly native and former Bulldogs running back D’Andre Swift, and then moving up near the top of the fourth round to take talented cornerback Kelee Ringo.

All seem incredibly grounded even after playing at the highest level in college and experiencing tremendous success.

Perhaps no one exemplifies that more than Smith, who showed up in Athens as a five-star recruit and settled in much like Davis and Carter, as part of an uber-talented rotation designed to get everyone involved.

Smith made such a positive first impression that more than one has compared his energy level and work ethic to franchise legend Brandon Graham, the long-time thermostat of the organization.

Smith reached out to the veteran stalwarts and “told them I don’t know anything.”

“I’m here to learn,” Smith said after Sunday’s training camp practice. “They said ‘We’re here to give you whatever.’”

Smith wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to mentorship because the NFL is a unique environment where players are often asked to help those who may replace them down the line, a contradiction that isn’t always embraced by veteran players.

The Eagles, specifically the so-called “core four” of Graham, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson, along with five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, are well-stocked with veterans who enjoy helping the next generation.

“We have great vets on our team,” Smith said. “That was one thing I was afraid about the NFL, they say certain guys don’t try to help people, but we don’t have that here at the Eagles. It’s everybody really pulling in the same direction.”

For Smith, he’s obviously closest to fellow edge rusher Graham on a day-to-day basis but Cox is right next door in the interior defensive line room, and Johnson is the star player Smith is usually going up against when he gets first-team reps, which have come at a fast and furious pace during the first three full practices of training camp with Hasson Reddick nursing some groin soreness.

“I’d say the guys that we have here on the D-line, it’s not even talent, it’s knowledge,” Smith said. “It’s something you can’t buy…In college I was the old head, now I realize I don’t know s@#$. I’m just here to work and learn.”

Smith showed off his crazy athleticism during practice on Sunday when he ran stride for stride with quarterback Jalen Hurts. Remember in that situation that Smith is rushing and then reversing field while Hurts, one of the best running QBs in the NFL has all the momentum.

Smith’s absurd 4.39 stopwatch speed at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds was the equalizer.

“You obviously see his talent with athleticism and how hard he plays,” said head coach Nick Sirianni. “It’s very noticeable of not only his get-off of how he gets off the football but also how he retraces to get to the football, whether that’s running down a play that’s gotten behind him or what not, you see how hard he plays on a play-to-play basis.”

The pads can come on Tuesday and that’s one Smith may get his welcome to the NFL moment against the powerful Johnson, an All-Pro and potential future Hall of Famer who hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 11 of the 2020 season.

“Lane is amazing, and I’m learning more about myself,” Smith said. “He’s teaching me stuff day by day. Even after he beat me on a couple of reps, he still comes over to me and tells me how I can get better and what things I could do different.”

The culture in Philadelphia is something Sirianni stresses and those who act selfishly probably aren’t going to be around very long.

“Our vets are showing us nothing but love because the ultimate goal is to help us win,” Smith said. “That’s what Lane is teaching me. I didn’t expect that. The first couple of reps when he beat me [he] came up after the rep and said ‘try this, this, this, and that, and it will help.’

“I’m happy about that.”

Smith wasn’t as bold as Carter, who set his goal at Defensive Rookie of the Year.

“To help my team. That’s my goal,” Smith said. “[Help my team] every day and to learn more, soak in all that BG knowledge. “BG and DB (Derek Barnett) and those guys in my room, (Josh) Sweat, Haason, take as much as they give me so I can elevate myself every day.”

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