Well, at least Andre Smith has inspired someone.
These are wild times for your favourite professional football league. No, not because the New Orleans VooDoo returned. That’s important somewhere to fans of strange, mutant football.
If you brush off that dusty newspaper fresh from the printing press this morning, you’ll see the usual talk of lockout doom alongside the athletic ability of aspiring athletes being heavily scrutinized at the NFL Combine. The numbers produced at the combine will seem important, and the pundits will convince you that with each lift and stride, these college stars are risking millions of dollars.
They are important, and the players are risking millions…unless their name is Andre Smith.
As we watch or at least try to watch the Combine, perspective is key. Sure, there are players like Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders who substantially raise their profile with a quality performance. But far more often the results are a product of controlled events in a highly controlled environment that tests few football skills.
Smith is an offensive tackle who has spent two injury riddled seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, appearing in just 13 games. Fresh from working under Nick Saban at Alabama, Smith entered the 2009 draft season as one of the top-rated offensive linemen, but his conditioning and weight lead to major question marks (Smith tips the scales at 345 pounds).
He needed to silence his critics at the Combine. Instead, he left. That’s not a typo.
Smith literally packed his bags and left Indianapolis unannounced, skipping his workout entirely. Later he attempted to salvage his reputation by saying he departed early to continue his preparation for Alabama’s Pro Day in March. The problem with that odd yet acceptable excuse was that Smith planted the expectation that he’d lift cars down in Tuscaloosa after his extra prep time.
He couldn’t even lift a sack stuff with leaves and feathers. Smith completed only 19 reps during his bench press, and most of his workout numbers wouldn’t have even placed him in the top 10 of his position. At one point early in the college football season Smith was projected as the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. After his workouts he was the subject of endless ridicule. The consensus was that his lack of motivation and general disregard for any shred of work ethic had cost him a first round selection and a few zeros on his first paycheck.
So when did this unmotivated, overweight slug come off the board? Sixth overall. The delinquent who had gone AWOL during the Combine, and took nearly every possible step to tarnish his professional football career before it even began was selected well ahead of Clay Matthews (26), Percy Harvin (22), Hakeem Nicks (29), and silver screen star Michael Oher (23).
The bumbling Bengals ignored the warning signs and invested millions in a player whose physique was already crumbling. At least they included a weight clause stating that if Smith’s size ever balloons over 350 pounds or if he isn’t on the 45-man roster on any given week, he loses half of his next paycheck. Smith broke his left foot two days into his first training camp, and only played six games during his rookie season.
Cincinnati may pay dearly for their ignorance, but Smith is still seeing dollar signs and smiling after his lackustre workout numbers meant nothing.