March 16, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
DeAndre Smelter has gotten used to seeing his football dreams deferred.
He put those dreams off on the college level for two years, choosing, instead, to play baseball, where he pitched for two seasons and was part of an ACC Championship team.
Then, after switching back to football and having two sensational seasons as the go-to in Georgia Tech’s spread option offense, an attack that will never be accused of being pass-happy, Smelter has seen his dream of playing professionally delayed, this time in a manner in which he had no choice, by tearing the ACL in his left knee, in the first half of Georgia Tech’s overtime victory at Georgia on Nov. 29.
The injury meant missing the final chapter of his collegiate career — the incredible finish against the Bulldogs, the ACC Championship Game against Florida State, and the Orange Bowl victory over Mississippi State — as well as being sidelined for the NFL Combine and Friday’sPro Day.
But he’ll get there.
About two months removed from surgery and about three months from being able to resume normal activities, the Macon, Ga., native was a popular guy at Pro Day, even in street clothes. He exudes confidence, preferring to look forward to what he’s going to do given the chance in the NFL than what he was unable to having been deprived of a chance to finish up in college.
A 2014 second-team All-ACC performer according to the coaches (third team according to the media), Smelter’s talent (56 catches, 1,060 yards, 18.9 ypc, 11 TDs, 115 rushing yards in four carries, including a 75-yard TD in two seasons), his size (6-3, 222), his athleticism, and his toughness are well-respected in NFL circles, as he was invited to the NFL Combine.
The Good Word talked with Smelter, who graduated in December, following Pro Day about where he is in pursuit of his NFL dream, where he is in his relationship with fellow wide receiver Darren Waller, who replaced Smelter as No. 1 receiver following his injury and who has gotten ravereviewsat the Combine and at Pro Day, and where he might have done differently in looking back on his Georgia Tech career.
THE GOOD WORD: How is your rehab going?
DeAndre Smelter: I’m about three months out right now. I’m doing a lot of stuff, just strengthening, trying to get my leg back to where it was before. They’re doing a good job with me here at Tech with my rehab process and trying to keep me in shape so when I do get recovered I can hit the ground running.
TGW: What is your timetable on returning to football activities?
SMELTER: I have no idea. This is my first major injury so I don’t know how anything is supposed to go. I just listen to what they tell me in rehab and just do that. I talked to a lot of the teams already at the Combine. Mainly I’m just trying to talk to guys, get in front of them, see some faces, get to know them. It was split up in different days. The medical day they just checked out my knee, made sure, asked me some questions about surgery, like what I got repaired and how they did, doctors and all that stuff. Some doctors saw that I was only two months out of surgery so they didn’t really play around with it too much. Just a little feel to see where I was.
TGW: Darren Waller has had a tremendous offseason and he credited you as an inspiration. How have you helped each other?
SMELTER: Darren and I fed off each other countless times. I know we didn’t have the season we wanted to in 2013, especially with it being my first season, so we made a pact to get in here, get a lot of work done, whether that was in the summer or in the spring. I know we worked hard in the spring and the summer to get ready for summer camp and even in the fall. Just seeing his workout and hopefully him seeing my workout we just fed off each other and that’s how we were able to be successful.
TGW: Have you enjoyed seeing how well Darren’s performed in the Combine and at Pro Day?
SMELTER: Definitely, but the thing is I didn’t expect anything less. I guess you could say he’s kind of just coming out on the scene but you ask anybody around here they could tell you they expected that out of him.
TGW: Has it been hard to keep your spirits up while you’ve gone through the surgery and now the rehab?
SMELTER: It was tough, especially right after I figured out I had the injury. I wasn’t really thinking about the Draft when I got injured. It was more like, `Man, I want to be out there playing in those last two games of the season.’ So that’s what really hurt the most. With some time now I’ve got my spirits up and I’m just trying to rehab every day.
TGW: Is there any part of you that regrets not having played football all four years?
SMELTER: I know if I could go back and change anything it would probably be coming back and playing both sports but I just have a path less traveled. Not many people can play football in high school, then play baseball and not play football for a while and then go back and play football. I just look at it as a blessing. I just try to keep working on it every day. Not many people can say it. I think it just goes to the fact of how competitive I am. Anything I do I want to be good at it.
TGW: Was it hard to watch today or did you kind of live vicariously through the guys?
SMELTER: I think I did both. It’s definitely hard to watch knowing that, you should be out there, knowing that you can perform. I think that’s just the competitor in me. At the same time, it was good seeing all these guys, seeing them working because I know they’ve been working just as hard as anybody else trying to perform and come out and have a good day.
TGW: Several guys felt their times prior to today were higher than they expected and they used that as extra incentive. How would you have handled such times?
SMELTER: I try to stay away from what other people think and other people’s predictions. I’m a self-motivated person so someone can say something about me and it’s not going to make me any more mad because I’m already motivated and know what I need to do.
TGW: You graduated in December. Does already having your degree and not having to concentrate on school make it easier to rehab?
SMELTER: Oh yeah, definitely. Any time you don’t have to think about school and you can just focus on football it’s a lot better. I’m done with school. It’s a good feeling.
Get The Good Word in your email box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.