The No. 30 overall pick in April’s draft, the former Georgia star has easily handled the microphone and showed the energy and enthusiasm in practice you can’t teach. And none of it is manufactured. Smith loves ‘ball, a pre-requisite for Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff with the Eagles.
Another example of that sentiment manifested itself in Smith’s first few days away from the NovaCare Complex after school was let out for the summer on June 8.
The 22-year-old edge rusher didn’t head back home to Savannah or race back to hang with his college friends in Athens. Of course, when you hear Las Vegas was on the travel schedule the eyes may start to roll but Sin City was a business trip for Smith, who was in the desert to attend the seventh annual Von Miller Pass Rush Summit.
Miller, one of the best edge rushers of the modern generation, has been on Smith’s radar for a while as an undersized player with tremendous bend. In fact, the seven-time All-Pro, who is now in Buffalo, is the player Smith has tried to emulate.
“I’d say Von Miller is someone I model my game after,” the rookie said.
That’s not a bad model considering that Miller has compiled 123 sacks during his career and was the MVP of Super Bowl 50 when he generated 2 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles to help his Denver Broncos upend the Carolina Panthers.
Like Smith (6-foot and 238 pounds) Miller, 34, is undersized for an edge rusher at 6-3 and 250 and the 13-year veteran is one of the outliers who created the more open-minded thinking that gave Smith and current Eagles’ star Hasson Reddick (6-1, 240) the opportunity to show what they could do when rushing the passer.
As a young player at Savannah’s Calvary Day School, and IMG Academy before choosing Georgia as the No. 1 high-school recruit in the country, Smith locked on to players with similar body types in the hopes of foreshadowing success in the NFL.
“I watch guys like my body type like Von Miller, Haason Reddick and the moves that they use and just the different things that they do, not only with their hands but how they bend the edge and use speed to power and how they set up their moves and play a game within the game,” Smith said.
That bend and the ankle flexion players like Miller and Reddick generate resonated with Smith.
“I focused on the bending at the top of the rush in my game just because I think it helped me get to the quarterback quicker, and also big guys don’t want to get down there and touch you,” Smith said.
Eagles All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson has also mentioned just how difficult Miller is to handle because of that bad so who better to help than the guy who’s done it better than anyone else?
Miller was on the ground floor of what has become a cottage industry in the NFL during the summer lull period. His pass-rushing summit predated the O-Line Masterminds session Johnson helped create as well as Tight End University, a Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Greg Olsen run affair that Dallas Goedert has attended each year.
Among those spotted at Miller’s summit this year were Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons, New Orleans Saints veteran Pro Bowl selection Cameron Jordan, the Las Vegas Raiders’ Maxx Crosby, Tennessee’s Jeffrey Simmons, and New England’s Josh Uche.