NEW YORK -- A year ago, Geno Smith was sweating his way through the second round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall during a nationally-televised freefall. Tonight, he’s the Jets' starting quarterback and throwing out the first pitch of the Mets game at Citi Field.
He’d much rather talk about the first pitch.
“[The draft is] very irrelevant at this point,” Smith said. “I’m focused on so many other things that I don’t even want to go back to that time.”
Smith was also at Citi Field to address a group of 150 middle school students in a program involving the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Citi Kids. He even took questions. The first one: “Can I tackle you?”
Smith had advice on money -- “I still have a piggy bank” -- and who he thinks will be the NBA champion: “The Miami Heat!” But Smith said there wasn’t any advice that could have eased the pressure of the NFL Draft experience for him a year ago.
Smith, who had just completed his senior season at West Virginia, was projected to go high in the first round. Some speculated he could even be the top pick. Instead, Smith sat in the green room at Radio City and watched as player after player hugged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The first round ended and he was still there, without another suit for Day 2. He debated not returning, but ultimately did. The Jets finally selected him with the 39th overall pick.
“I don’t think advice will help,” Smith said. “You just got to deal with it. It really comes down to who you are as a person and how you deal with adversity and how you deal with things. If anyone wants my advice I’m always happy to give it, but everyone deals with situations differently; you’ve just got to be yourself.”
The pressure didn’t end when he was picked, and in March the Jets brought in former Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. After saying he would be competing for the starting spot, this week Vick changed his tone and said Smith was the starter.
“One thing I can tell you is Mike and I have a really good relationship, always have,” Smith said. “I’ve known him for a while now. I think he’s a really good guy. I think he still has a lot left in the tank, man, 34 years old -- I can only hope to be as good-looking as he is. He’s still got it.”
The Jets' group of quarterbacks, which includes Matt Simms, has been bonding in the early weeks of the offseason training program.
“We’ve spent plenty of time, we’ve got meetings, we hang out,” Smith said. “Me and Matt have always had a great relationship, and Mike just fits right in with us. He’s a veteran, but he’s a hard worker, and he’s going to do the right thing at all times.”
Asked if he had a mock draft worked up for the remaining rounds, Smith laughed.
“I don’t have a mock draft unfortunately. I haven’t done enough research yet,” Smith said. “But I know we’re going to get the right guy.”
Asked about the decision to go with safety Calvin Pryor in the first round, Smith said it was the right call and noted that there were 11 more picks, so the offense hasn’t been slighted.
“I just can’t wait for camp to get out of the field with all the guys and just to see the level of competition at all the positions,” Smith said, “because you get the feeling around the building something special’s about to happen. Guys are just working their butts off, everyone is focused.”