Alabama in the Pros

Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver sees himself in DeVonta Smith

DeVonta Smith smiling at Alabama's second pro day
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics

When the dust settled on an immaculate collegiate career, little did DeVonta Smith know he would be judged more for his physical appearance than production.

He became the University of Alabama’s all-time leader at wide receiver, but NFL pundits nitpicked him for his size. Smith won numerous awards — including the Heisman Trophy — however, people saw this as insignificant in comparison to him weighing 170 pounds.

He paced the Crimson Tide to a national championship; nevertheless, it led to more questions about his frame and kept him from being a top-five draft pick. Despite the obstacles, the Louisiana native landed in a good spot.

The Philadelphia Eagles traded with the Dallas Cowboys to gain the No. 10 overall pick, and it used on the best receiver from the draft class.

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He was great at rookie minicamp and mandatory minicamp, but Smith is prepared to turn up in training camp.

Size has never been an issue for him, and the 6-foot-1 weapon is ready to show it to the world.

Today, ESPN’s Tim McManus interviewed a Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver. Issac Bruce, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is one of the members of the “Greatest Show on Turf.”

The 1999 St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) had a dangerous offense that won the Super Bowl.

Bruce played in 14 seasons (1994-07) with the Rams, and was a four-time Pro Bowler, second-team All-Pro (1999), and led the league for receiving yards in 1996. When the Rams chose him in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft, Bruce was 170 pounds.

During his 16-year career, he was a silent assassin. Bruce had eight 1,000-yard seasons, including an output of 1,165 yards receiving with 12 touchdowns on 77 catches in 1999. Size did not bother Bruce or Marvin Harrison (6-0/185), and Bruce told ESPN that comparing Smith to him and Harrison is fair. Bruce said he likes the fact that Smith is not a huge talker.

“[Smith] isn’t the most vocal guy, you can start there, which is something I like. He has tremendous confidence when he does open his mouth, and you can see it in his play,” Bruce said. “He’s very similar to Marvin. I can see a lot of it as far as the separation is concerned, [how he] catches the ball well, strong hands, and his ability to run after the catch, very similar to the way Marvin played.”

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Bruce and Harrison were two of the best receivers to ever play in the NFL.

Smith has an opportunity to become legendary too. Bruce and Harrison proved quality routes, strong hands, football intelligence, and great footwork make up for a lack of size. He may not be big, but Bruce loves everything about Smith’s game.

“He doesn’t look that big, but he creates separation, he can run by you, he’s smart enough to play in a zone and find open spots,” Bruce said.

Crimson Tide fans are looking forward to Smith dominating as a rookie.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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