A Dream Come True: Rusty Smith's Journey to The NFL
April 27th, 2010 By DraftNasty Staff Reports
DraftNasty.com closely followed Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith and his dreams of being selected in the NFL Draft over the last few months. On Sunday, the long journey ended for Smith when he was drafted in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans. It marked an amazing turnaround for Smith, who began this past year as one of the nation's top NFL prospects at QB, but saw his stock plummet after suffering a season-ending injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the seventh game. Smith was skipped over for an invitation to the NFL Combine for reasons he still does not understand. However, Smith held on to his dreams, dazzled a dozen NFL scouts at Florida Atlantic's Pro Day by launching spirals into high winds, and in interview sessions. The 6-foot-5 Smith spoke with DraftNasty.com about the overall draft experience in the last of a series of interviews.
Q. Do you mind taking us through your NFL Draft weekend?
A. The first two days on Thursday and Friday were very, very dull. A lot of the time, I just sat there, doing nothing really. It was me, my wife, my mom, and my dad on Friday night. On Saturday morning, my grandparents came over to join us, but it was still a lot of waiting because I didn't get drafted until around 2 p.m. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., we were just sitting there, watching the television. We got nervous every time there was a team [about to draft] that we thought might draft a quarterback … because we didn't want it to be anybody but me. So we got real nervous when those teams got on the clock and my phone didn't ring. It was a little bit stressful most of the morning. We kind of relaxed toward the afternoon. The Tennessee Titans, they had traded for the pick that they used to draft me. We didn't have it on the sheet of paper we were looking at, so we weren't expecting a pick until later on in the sixth round. When we saw that Tennessee was next on the clock, we were like "Where did that come from?" And then when Tennessee got on the clock, my phone started ringing. It was an area code that I didn't recognize, so I answered it and put the TV on mute. It was Tennessee's general manager, and he said "Would you like to be a Titan?" I said "I would love to." And everybody at my house started going crazy. It was awesome.
Q. Did you have any idea that the Titans were going to draft you?
A. They brought me in for a pre-draft interview, so we knew there were about four teams that were interested in me. If I was going to get drafted, we figured it was going to be Tennessee, New England, Jacksonville or Miami. I went to Pro Day with the Miami Dolphins and had a really good interview with [offensive coordinator Dan Henning]. I had the pre-draft interview with the Titans. I also worked out for New England’s coach Bill Belichick. We thought one of those four teams might draft me.
Q. There was lots of speculation and surprises about quarterbacks in this year's NFL Draft. ESPN wrote that Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen "was the draft's bigger loser" after his slide from early in the first round to No. 48 overall. There were other QBs who also went much later than expected. What did you make out of all of it?
A. I wasn't shocked that quarterbacks started dropping. The draft was very deep with a lot of really good players -- other than at the quarterback position. It wasn't like the quarterback position was low, but you had a lot really good defensive tackles, offensive linemen, and cornerbacks. It was such a deep draft overall that I kind of had the idea that the quarterbacks were going to slide farther than they were expected to fall.
Q. Now that you got drafted, how do you reflect on being skipped for an invitation to the NFL Combine?
A. I think that the teams that were really interested in me, there were only a couple of them. And they didn't want other teams maybe see what I could do. So I guess they didn't mind that I didn't get invited to the NFL Combine. I still don't have any other explanation for the (not being invited to the Combine), so I don't really know … It really is an incredible turn of events. When I didn't get invited to the NFL Combine, I was really upset at first. Then I got over it, and really had to push through it and continue to work hard. Now that I've been drafted, my feelings are the complete opposite. I'm so ecstatic and so happy that I got my chance. Now I got to get to camp, keep working hard, and show the Tennessee coaches that I can stay in the NFL.
Q. After you were drafted, Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger told the Nashville Tennessean newspaper," (Smith) slides great in the pocket. I fell in love with him when I watched his technique. His feet are always underneath him, he can get rid of it any place he needs to. He makes all the throws — deep and short … There is not much we’re going to have to mess with this guy. He is a true pocket quarterback who can make all the throws.’’
The Titans have depth at quarterback with starter Vince Young and veterans Kerry Collins and Chris Simms. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said the team will only keep three of four quarterbacks, but that it is too early to talk about how things will play out. How do you feel about your chances of making the Titans?
A. I don't know. They believed in me enough to draft me. I just need to get there and learn the offense, along with build relationships with other players and the coaches. I need to work hard and prove that I belong in the NFL, and I will go from there.
Q. Now that the draft is over, what do you think about your journey over the last few months?
A. I would definitely say that everything in life happens for a reason. In the beginning, I did have a lot of hype in my favor because of accolades like MVP of two bowl games,  Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, and 10,000 yards passing. Then I got injured. So it's like everything is going right for you, and then everything is going wrong for you ... with the injury and not getting invited to the NFL Combine. Then, in the end, you get drafted. I think I got drafted by the team I was meant to get drafted by all along. I learned you just have to trust that everything is going to happen in God's plan and God's timing.
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