April 26, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Orwin Smith watched a little of the beginning of the NFL draft Thursday night, and he said his plan for Friday evening’s television coverage of rounds 2-3 would be similar. He hasn’t felt the urge to fully involve himself because he’s not fully considered a prospect.
The former Georgia Tech running back, who will graduate on May 4 with a degree in business administration, hopes to make a living as a professional football player yet he realizes there are no guarantees that he’ll get that chance.
Smith is something of a longshot to be drafted although several teams have told him they are interested in signing him to a free agent contract if he’s not selected.
His career rushing average of 9.3 yards per carry would have been a Tech, ACC and NCAA record if he had enough career carries, yet his body of work in four seasons on The Flats may not have been deep enough to convince NFL scouts that he’s draft-worthy.
“I won’t put too much time into [watching] mainly because I guess my name could be called, but if we’re talking reality, it probably won’t,” Smith said Friday afternoon. “In previous years, I would actually watch. Now, it’s kind of bittersweet.”
If NFL scouts were to base their opinion of Smith on tape of his highlights, he’d be selected for sure.
He’s third in school history in career kickoff return yardage (1,624 yards) even though his role as the main kickoff man was reduced by the time he was a senior in part because of a nagging Turf toe injury that popped up his sophomore season. Smith’s also fifth in career all-purpose yardage (4,278) and 15th in career rushing yards (1,839).
The Phenix City, Ala., native treasures football, yet only watched about the first five picks of the first round on Friday. After that, “I was checking every now and then on the internet.”
Smith had a good week of practice, and played fairly well in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl back in January, and NFL teams know enough about him to know that he’s a speed back with pretty good size (6-feet, 205 pounds). They’re not sure, however, that he can take the pounding that would come with a pro career.
He played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl even though he needed surgery to repair a small tear in one of his shoulder labrums, and delayed that surgery. Now, he said, “rehab is going great, the mobility is back.”
With more flexibility than he’s had during most of his time at Tech, Smith may go home to Phenix City on Saturday, and it’s just about a lock that he’ll get a call from an NFL team later today – either to learn that he’s been drafted, or … possibly better news.
“I have gotten some interest from some teams,” he said. “I have heard sixth or seventh rounds, maybe but some teams have already told me that as soon as the draft is over they’d like me to come on board.”
The Bucs, Vikings, 49ers, Texans, Packers and Falcons are among teams that already have told Smith that they may be interested in signing him if he goes undrafted by another team.
That doesn’t seem like such a bad option, frankly.
“Yeah, definitely. Sometimes, being a free agent is better than being drafted in the seventh round. You pretty much come out with similar signing bonuses but you get to pick,” Smith said. “Being a free agent, I can see the depth chart of teams and know what team I have the best chance of making.”
Whether he’s drafted or not, Smith feels like it’s time to move into the, “real world.”
“I’m ready. I definitely enjoyed the four years, but the longer you do it the more ready you are; it gets you ready for life,” he said. “In my eyes, I can now make an income. To say I got a degree from Georgia Tech is special. To make living instead of playing for free so to speak, I look forward to that.”
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