The Times West Virginian

April 25, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU trio set to take next step

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s Geno Smith has been analyzed almost like no quarterback before him as the National Football League draft has approached, teams in need of franchise quarterbacks attempting to decide if he is a quarterback who can give them a decade of solid football or someone who is only tantalizingly close to being an NFL star.

They have measured his height and his speed, his running ability and his arm strength. They have tested his intelligence along with his patience, just as they have done with WVU’s two star receivers who also are coming out into this year’s draft.

No stone was left unturned … except maybe the most public and telling of all.

Greatness in the NFL comes with a combination of the physical assets and mental aspects that they dissect over and over, but there is something more, the makeup and personality of the player, and this is really the first or second year where that is laid out there for them to study in a player’s Twitter.

Twitter has become a window to the soul of its people, showing you what they do, what they believe. They touch on everything from their love life to their work life, from their sense of humor to the way they react when things go wrong.

Smith, for instance, just this week laid open his soul to show his competitive spirit and how the way all of the analysts have challenged him to prove himself with a controversial tweet that read:

“Just want to thank all those so called ‘experts’ who say I can’t be an NFL QB. Thursday will be a special day but the work has only begun”

Make no doubt he has had “experts” who have questioned his abilities.

Jarrett Bell of USA Today laid it out as a “black tax” that African-American quarterbacks wind up paying during the scouting process, quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton along with Smith the past three years.

This was written in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal about Griffin last year:

“‘Everybody is just assuming because of the Heisman and the socks and all that bs. ... They are ignoring a lot of bad tape that he’s had,’ one scout said. ’I don’t think he has vision or pocket feel, which to me are the two most important components of quarterbacking. He’s just running around winging it. He’s (Michael) Vick, but not as good a thrower.’

“Another scout ‘questioned the way Griffin deals with people.’”

And then there was Nolan Nawrocki, an NFL scout, who wrote that Smith is “Not a student of the game. … Not committed or focused — marginal work ethic.”

This is enough to wear on you and, as the process came to an end, it was wearing on Smith, and you could read it in his Tweets.

“Hate is so familiar to me I’m slowly embracing it, doesn’t come natural bear with me it could take a bit,” he tweeted.

This did not, however, detract from what he really is if you look into his soul through his Tweets.

“4.56 40, 10.4 broad jump, 34 inch vert. Yet none of this defines me as a QB! The game is won between the ears, study the tape!” he wrote.

And then there was “Good is never good enough! #striveforgreatness”

Or “They always want more, so I always get better. It’s just the beginning. Got so much to prove!”

The process has been hectic for all of them.

These were Tweets that came from Austin, who has seen his stock rise from a second-round selection to a probable first-round pick with a series of impressive workouts.

“Last trip!! These visits been everything it’s crazy how people know you better then you know yourself!! Blessed,” he wrote.

Then, in day by day it went something like this:

“Detroit Wasup??”

“First time on a train!!! Next stop Newark NJ”

“Newark, NJ look and feel just like Baltimore!!! Hood”

“Vampire life!!!! Can’t sleep”

“Next stop Cincinnati !!!!”

“St. Louis for the first time !!!”

“Next stop Cleveland !!!!”

And Bailey, he let the world know that he has a religious, caring, serene inner side.

“Message to the Youth: DREAMS DO COME TRUE! Plz Believe it,” he Tweeted.

“Got a good peace of mind running on the beach this morning. Gotta thank the man upstairs for such a beautiful day.”

“Slight drizzle of rain this morning. Won’t hold me back tho! Beach run this morning to clear my mind”

“Life really about to change.... #MAJORLY”

Indeed it is, for all three of them.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.