By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
As coaches, executives and scouts from 29 NFL teams — Arizona, Dallas and Seattle had better things to do — looked on, Geno Smith had his best passing day since the Baylor game on NFL Pro Day at West Virginia University.
“Baylor was probably a little bit better,” he would admit after it was over and he had completed – you might want to sit down before you hear this, although you must understand there was no defense going against him – 60 of 64 passes.
Of course, in Baylor, with 11 so-called defenders out there, all Smith could do was complete 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards – that is not a typo – no interceptions and eight touchdowns.
Is it any wonder, having that day on his resume, that Smith would downplay the importance of the way he threw the ball to the same receivers – Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, J.D. Woods, Ryan Nehlen and Shawne Alston.
Former quarterback Ron Jaworski said on the ESPN set that “anyone who watched this workout today understands this guy is a Top 10 pick.”
“The scouts don’t need to see me throw,” he said. “They’ve seen it in games; they’ve seen it on tape. The main thing is I get into the classroom with them, let them understand who I am, my personality and my character,” Smith said.
Far more important, he believes, is that they get to know the other him … not the one who throws the ball but the one who lives his life and who prepares until there is nothing left to prepare for, who is obsessed with becoming not just an NFL quarterback, but a big-time NFL quarterback.
That was why what he did after tossing the ball around was so important, and that was to meet with the Jacksonville Jaguars and their coach, Gus Bradley, for more than an hour.
He wants to make sure they know all there is about him, such as how what he does on the field is the result of preparation and long, hard hours in the film room.
“That’s the biggest part for me. My game is from the neck up. I’ve done things physically you kind of wow at, but I won games by making decisions. You can’t make dumb plays or mistakes. We all make them, but you have to try to limit them,” he said.
He believes he got his point across.
“They all are impressed. I do believe I have a really good skill set and can spin the ball with the best of them. It’s not an issue of can I make all the throws. I can make that. The main thing they want to see is how I react in the classroom, how much of the offense was I in control of, what things did I do in my offense and in my college career that can translate into the NFL.
“We didn’t do any board work in the meeting. We watched a little bit of tape, but really just talked.”
Smith’s goal for this day was to make improvement over what he showed at the Combine.
“Coming out of the Combine people wanted to see me improve in my footwork. They haven’t seen much of me under center. It’s something they all want to see, including myself. I’d like to see how I react to that,” he said.
There were 16 players in all who worked out on the day, Austin being there to show his route-running ability and then staying late to return punts, while Bailey was trying to make up for some drops at the Combine and improve his draft position from what is said to be a potential third round selection.
“It’s like I can’t get rid of Stedman and Tavon,” Smith joked, having worked out with them a day earlier. “They are everywhere with me. It’s been a lot of fun with those guys, chasing our dreams.”
If anyone made headway in this Pro Day it was wide receiver Ryan Nehlen, who had scouts talking about his unexpected athleticism and ability to catch the ball.
Nehlen had been stuck behind the Austin, Bailey and J.D. Woods among the WVU wide receivers, but the numbers he put up in drills were startling.
His 39-inch vertical leap was 4.5 inches higher than any other player who worked out; his 40 time of 4.53 matched defensive back Cecil Level for the day’s best, ahead of Pat Miller and J.D. Woods, who both ran better than 4.6.
Nehlen’s standing broad jump off 11-1 was four inches better than anyone else’s while his 20-yard shuttle run of 4.12 was the day’s best along with 11.18 60-yard shuttle.
Smith isn’t sure what his future holds between now and draft day.
“As of right now I would expect 10 to 12 interviews, maybe even more. I had a workout Monday with the Eagles that went well and I have something coming up with the Bills on the 22nd,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org of follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.