Derron Smith could only watch at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last month as safety after safety ran through drills for NFL teams.
After a sports hernia injury that limited him all last fall during his senior season at Fresno State, Smith had surgery in December and then decided to not work out at the combine with all the other prospects who had been invited.
Yes, it bothered Smith at first, but he knows his next opportunity comes Wednesday at Fresno State Pro Day.
“I’m feeling good — ready to perform, show the coaches and scouts that I’m healthy and I’m good and ready to play, show them that I’m one of the best safeties in the draft,” he said.
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Smith suffered the injury before the season. Even with the injury, he still found a way to get on the field and play, making 93 tackles and one interception with seven pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Smith said he needed a painkilling shot before each game.
Smith still attended the scouting combine but only interviewed with teams. It wasn’t until the last day when the defensive backs showcased their skills when his limited participation hit him the most.
“That was probably the worst day, sitting there watching everybody compete; guys cheering each other on,” Smith said. “It really sucked not to be able to be out there and perform.”
Smith on Wednesday won’t have the luxury of choosing which workouts he wants to do — he has to do all of them.
“That’s one of the things that also hurts: not performing at the combine,” he said. “Guys perform at the combine and test where they’re at and what they want to re-do and not do at Pro Day. I’ve got to do everything. I’ve been training for everything: speed, changing directions, strength, everything.”
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. considers Smith the third-best safety in the draft and figures he will be selected in the third or fourth round. The draft is April 30 (first round), May 1 (second and third rounds) and May 2 (fourth through seventh rounds) in Chicago.
No matter which team Smith goes to, Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said Smith will bring leadership qualities.
“A lot of teams like him off last year, and this year. They also want to see what he can do coming off surgery,” DeRuyter said. “Hopefully he can show that he’s close to 100% and run (the 40-yard dash) in that 4.4-4.5 range that I think he can run. He has tremendous ball skills.”
DeRuyter enjoyed watching Smith play for him because of his “knowledge of the game.”
“Those kind of things helped him when he went to Indianapolis to meet with the clubs and talk with them,” DeRuyter said. “At Pro Day, he’s going to have a chance to run around and show them where he’s at physically.”
Smith admits his weakness is his tackling because there are “so many different ways” to do it. But he also doesn’t blame those missed tackles on his injury.
“That’s not an excuse — making a tackle is making a tackle,” Smith said. “You’ve got to wrap up around his feet, and I don’t think injury had anything to do with that.”
Smith added he’s grateful to be healthy again and is looking to prove to coaches and scouts what he can bring to their team.
“I’m healthy; I’m getting healthier every day,” he said. “I feel I can do whatever a team wants me to do. I don’t feel like I’m limited to one responsibility. I bring versatility.”