PHILADELPHIA -- Marcus Smith is unfazed by pressure.
Consider the fact that Smith entered his career at the University of Louisville as a quarterback and wound up as a linebacker who also played all over the defensive line. And by his senior season, Smith became one of the best pass-rushers in the country with 14.5 sacks.
The process was far from easy.
“When I got to Louisville, I played quarterback,” said Smith, who was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 26 overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday. “There were two seniors in front of me. I wasn't getting a lot of reps. I was throwing some balls in the dirt. (Louisville head coach Charlie) Strong came up to me and asked if I wanted to play on his defense? I told him I'll do whatever it takes to get on the field. We had a two a day that day, so the second practice he let me play defense. I was playing SAM linebacker then, so the rest is history. I stayed on the defensive side of the ball.
“Then going into the spring, we had a lot of defensive ends hurt going into the spring. So they moved me to defensive end. So I was playing (the) five-technique my sophomore year, and it just kept moving up the years, like my junior year and senior year. Then they started moving me around and standing me up a lot more when I got more comfortable with the defense.”
Smith made that transition quite nicely, but the next one will be tougher in the NFL.
Since Smith was projected by most experts to be selected in the second or third round, he’ll have that pressure facing him once again. Yet he remains calm about it all.
“I would tell them (fans) to just sit back and relax,” said Smith, who also compiled 18.5 tackles for loss last season at Louisville. “I feel like I can be a great player. Especially under the vets that we have this year. We have great outside linebackers here, and I want to be able to learn under them. So I can come in and contribute to the team, even though I wasn't projected that high. It's not all about what they project. It's about what the coaches and (general managers) think of you. So I'll try not to let anybody down, but I just want to come in, work hard, be successful and just help this team win.”
Trent Cole led the Eagles’ defense with eight sacks last season. The team was 20th in the league in sacks, so help is clearly needed.
Can Smith contribute right away?
“I'm not sure how long it will take,” Smith said. “I just know that I'm going to come in, I'm going to work hard, and the vets that are over me, I just want to come in and learn under them. I think that once I learn from them and am able to play in the game, that's when my game will probably be up, because being around those guys will help me a lot.”