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July 21, 2011

Jets FS, Eric Smith Interview

by Max Strauss

Eric Smith was a member of Michigan State Spartans from 2002 through 2005. He then entered the 2006 NFL Draft, and was drafted in the 3rd round, 97th overall by the New York Jets. He has been a safety on the Jets since, playing and starting both on special teams and on defense. Eric Smith has totaled over 200 tackles in the NFL, 19 pass deflections, and 1 sack. This interview was conducted before the 2011 NFL season.

To download audio interview with Eric Smith, right-click this.

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Smith : Hey, this is Eric Smith, #33 for the New York Jets. Get ready to listen to an interview I just did with Max Strauss at https://prointerviews.org/

Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with http://prointerviews.org/, http://facebook.com/ProInterviews/ and http://twitter.com/ProInterviews/. I’d like to welcome you to the interview with Eric Smith. Eric attended the Michigan State University. He finished his career with 36 starts, over 300 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and four interceptions. He entered the 2006 NFL Draft, and was drafted in the 3rd round, 97th overall by the New York Jets. He has a remained a member of the Jets organization since then and has played a huge role on defense and special teams. Here is the interview with Eric Smith.

Strauss : How did you start playing football?

Smith : I started playing in seventh grade just because I got tired of playing baseball. I grew up playing baseball and I just got burnt out so I figured I would try football.

Strauss : What was your high school football experience like?

Smith : High school was a lot of fun, but we were terrible. We would win two games a year. It was a lot of fun; I played offense, defense, and returned kicks. I think we won maybe nine games the whole time I was in high school.

Strauss : What was the transition like to Michigan State?

Smith : It was actually pretty easy. When I first got there, the freshmen could come early and we basically had three-a-days with just the freshmen coming in. It was probably the worst experience of my life, those first three days. I called my mom the second day to tell her to come pick me up; this wasn’t for me. She wouldn’t come pick me up so I called grandma; she wouldn’t come pick me up either. It made me stick it out and I started playing my second year. I ended up starting after that. It was an easy transition after I got through the first couple days.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory from Michigan State?

Smith : My senior year, beating Notre Dame in overtime at Notre Dame. We planted our Spartan flag on Notre Dame’s fifty [yard line] and as soon as it hit the ground all eighty thousand people started booing!

Strauss : What was your draft experience like?

Smith : I figured I probably had the least stressful draft day of anyone. I wasn’t expecting to go in the second day. So I had all my family coming up for the second day. Nobody was really there for the first day. I was setting up for the party the next day and that night, it was the end of the third round coming up, and the phone rang, so my sister answered it. She came running outside, saying it was the Jets! Then, I got off the phone, and I heard my Mom inside screaming because it was on TV. I really wasn’t expecting it at all. I wasn’t really paying attention to the draft so I was sitting there stressing about it. It was a big relief though.

Strauss : What was your first training camp like?

Smith : It was tough. It was Mangini’s first year and nobody really knew anything about what to expect like from the first day. I think we started the first training camp with a live tackling drill, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the camp. It was real physical; It took a toll on your body, and one of the toughest I’ve been involved in.

Strauss : Okay. Not as tough as the Michigan State one, though?

Smith : The Michigan State one was just… It was like a…shock. Only freshman are there for first three days. It’s just three days and you just spend the whole time getting tapped out. It’s like they wanted to break you down before you got started it seemed like.

Strauss : Throughout your career you’ve been known to make big hits. What’s the mindset you possess? How do you go about making a big hit?

Smith : I think it’s just because I have no regard for my well being or anything like that. And, I like contact. My thinking is, ‘If I’m going to run all that way to get to you, I’m gonna hit you as hard as I can when I get there.’

Strauss : You have always had a huge role on special teams. How important do you think special teams are to the game of football?

Smith : Special teams are big. There’s a lot that can happen on one of those special teams plays that can change the game, like for instance, running a kickoff back and taking the lead—something like that. There are so many things that can happen that can happen that change the game in just one play. And, I think it gets overlooked a lot. It’s a huge part of the game with field position and everything like that. Basically, it’s just a lot of fun to play. You get a lot of one-on-one match-ups, and basically, you just have to beat your guy.

Strauss : Quick question. Kind of random, but maybe funny… Do fans ever confuse you for Brad Smith?

Smith : I have actually been called Brad a few times… I have been with Brad before and I think somebody got us mixed up and called him Eric and me Brad… a lot of times, I’ll have people argue with me that like somebody asked who I was, and I told them. They argued with me and said, “No, Eric Smith is black.”

Strauss : What was former Head Coach, Eric Mangini like?

Smith : He was a very knowledgable football guy. Anything football related you could ask him, and he had an answer for you. He knew pretty much every position, what they should be doing, but he was real tough on us. I think it made the team closer because, of how, really how, we needed to band together because and do this because I’m trying to think of how to say this without sounding really bad, because you know, I didn’t really care for him too much. And that’s, I’m not really sure how to word this now to get this point across that I’m trying to say, I mean, it was tough. It was grueling, and it definitely made you appreciate the way Rex is right now.

Strauss : What’s it like to play for Rex Ryan?

Smith : Oh, it’s great. I mean it’s a joy to go to work everyday. Sitting in those meetings, learning his defense. Team meetings are the most fun things I’ve ever been to, because you never know what is going to come out his mouth or what he’s going to say. He’s one of those guys, that saying, you’d run though a brick wall for him. He’s one of those guys.

Strauss : What’s it like to play for, Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine?

Smith : Pettine does a great job with situations. He’s one of those guys that if it’s 2nd and five at their end, he’ll send in in a certain personnel group. You can ask him what to expect and he can come up with three or four things that they run. He’s really good at tendencies and things like that. It makes it easier on us because we know he’s going to put us in a defense that is good against that tendency.

Strauss : What’s it like to play for Defensive Backs coach Dennis Thurman?

Smith : He’s great. He is probably one of the best defensive backs coaches that I’ve been around. His knowledge of the game and knowing how to play situations. He makes things so much easier on us by telling us to routes, and how we can tweak different coverages because of the type of offense they’re running. He is basically like having another defensive coordinator out there.

Strauss : What is it like to play for Westhoff?

Smith : Westhoff is great. He is probably my favorite coach of all time. That guy is so knowledgeable about special teams but then again he makes it so fun and easy for us that it’s a joy to play special teams for him. I’ve gotten to know him pretty well throughout the years and he’s just a great all-around guy. Once you get on his good side, he’s a lot of fun.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory with the Jets throughout your career?

Smith : It’s hard to say because we’ve had a lot of good memories. We made it to the AFC Championship two years in a row. I can’t really say I have a top one right now. Maybe if we make the Super Bowl next year, that’ll be it.

Strauss : What’s your nickname?

Smith : Smitty. S-M-I-T-T-Y!

Strauss : Do you have a foundation or a charity you support?

Smith : I don’t have one of my own that I support for different things. We have the Ronald McDonald house, the Battlefield Brawls. More people ask me to do things with their charity or their foundations.

Strauss : If you could boil down your success and why you’ve made it into the NFL and why you’ve stayed in the NFL to three keys. What do you think those three keys to your success would be?

Smith : Hard work is probably one. Being coachable. And, doing whatever is asked of me.

Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor what would you be and why?

Smith : I’m going to say Extreme Moose Tracks. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that or not. it’s got everything imaginable in it. You can get it with chocolate or vanilla ice cream. I feel like I have a lot of skills and different things that a lot of people don’t know about when you starting talking to me or getting to know me. All those little things are hidden in the ice cream until you start eating it until you are like, “Oh there’s a brownie. There’s a peanut.” Things like that.

Strauss : For someone who wants to play in the NFL what’s the best advice you can give them?

Smith : Just keep working. You need to work hard everyday, because you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. You never know when your shot is going to come up and you got to be prepared for it.

Strauss : Is there something like a hobby that you do that not a lot of people know about?

Smith : I hunt and fish but I think a lot of people are starting to figure that out because they started making a big deal about it the last couple years. Other than that, I’ll pretty much do anything.

Strauss : What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever hunted?

Smith : Deer is probably the biggest. I’ve hunted deer, pheasant, quail, and turkey. I want to go on a bear hunt but bear season is right during training camp, I haven’t had a chance to do that yet.

Strauss : Thank you so much for your time Eric, I really appreciate it. I hope you had a lot of fun doing the interview.

Smith : Thanks for having me! You did a great job!

Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with Eric Smith. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you leave your comments below as well! Please check out my website https://prointerviews.org/ for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at http://facebook.com/ProInterviews/, and follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ProInterviews/. Please subscribe to me on YouTube at http://youtube.com/ProInterviews/ Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me!

->Here are the personal questions Eric Smith answered.<-

Strauss : If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?

Smith : Somebody like Einstein. Just the way he thought about things and the ideas he came up with, it’s unbelievable to me. I always interested in people that think about things differently than everybody else.

Strauss : If you weren’t playing in the NFL what would you want to do?

Smith : Originally in college, I wanted to try and get in the FBI. I wanted to try to work border patrol somewhere around San Diego and then try to transfer into the FBI. So if I wasn’t playing football, hopefully that.

Strauss : Are you going to try if football doesn’t happen this season or no?

Smith : It’s so hard to get into the FBI; background checks take three to four years. So it probably wouldn’t be something feasible right now, but maybe after football is completely over I’d try to get into something, a government job like that. Then try to get into the FBI eventually.

Strauss : What’s your favorite TV show?

Smith : River Monsters is the best one on right now. That takes the cake right now.  It was Mythbusters for a little while with all the River Monsters re-runs going on.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite movie of all time?

Smith : The Hangover is my favorite right now; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite type of pie?

Smith : I’d probably say, apple but I don’t eat many desserts.

Strauss : If you could choose your last meal on earth what would it be?

Smith : I’d probably go with a steak, medium rare. A sweet potato, a chopped salad and maybe some asparagus.

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