IRVING, Texas – Of the nine players drafted by the Cowboys over the weekend, one seems to be forgotten in the mix moreso than others.
That's a remarkable feat, since five of the nine draftees were seventh-round selections, taken long after the majority of fans had turned off the draft. But it certainly seems like Texas Tech linebacker Will Smith is the forgotten man – not that he cares.
"I thought I was going to go a little earlier. I felt like people were talking to me and then how I performed at pro day and then my season," Smith said on Saturday. "I'm just happy to get a call anyways, it didn't really matter at that point."
Much like DeVonte Holloman before him, Smith was drafted with an eye on special teams, with a shot to earn a look as a weakside linebacker. The Cowboys could use some added production in kick coverage, especially with the departure of Danny McCray in free agency.
"I know for sure weak side linebacker and then definitely special teams. That's going to be my first impact to make on the team - to become a special teams specialist," Smith said.
He should be up to that challenge, given his penchant for contact. A junior college transfer, Smith made 175 total tackles in just 24 career starts – an average of about seven tackles per game. He made 120 of those tackles in 13 starts as a senior, earning first-team All-Big XII honors.
"Just always got to have that motor running," said Smith, when asked about his ability to get to the ball carrier.
Smith also joins defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and safety Ahmad Dixon as the third player in this draft class raised as a Cowboys fan. Dixon grew up just down the road in Waco, Texas, but Lawrence and Smith's stories give testament to the Cowboys' national appeal.
A native of Riverside, California, Smith said he was raised a Cowboys fan by his father, and he grew up admiring the likes of Emmitt Smith, Dat Nguyen, Darren Woodson and Terence Newman. That passion wasn't shared by everyone, however, as his uncle had a rival rooting interest from his father. [embedded_ad]
"It's just the way his grandfather raised him on. His twin brother was raised a Pittsburgh fan, so my grandfather made him a Cowboys fan," Smith said. "They've always been rivals in the house ever since."
Undoubtedly, rivalries can be put aside for this occasion. Smith may not have arrived in Dallas with the same cache as other draft picks, but he'll have the chance to realize a difficult dream – and for his childhood team, no less.
"That just means a lot. Like I keep saying, this is unreal," he said. "To have your favorite childhood team and then you get drafted. It's a blessing."