That he came to the Dolphins after playing last season for the University of Georgia was the result of him accomplishing his first goal: earning a bachelor’s degree in three years. He was a member of the Alabama team for long enough to achieve the second goal, which was to win a national title.
“I got all three now,” Smith said. “That’s a good thing.”
But having earned an NFL contract doesn’t mean Smith is planning on stopping now. He eventually will go back to Georgia to finish his graduate degree, but is hoping to put that on hold to enjoy a pro football career.
Smith signed with the Dolphins after starting at cornerback for Georgia last fall following three seasons as a reserve DB and special teams contributor for Alabama.
“I think I’m real physical, aggressive and smart,” Smith said. “I think I play fast. Those are some of the things that coaches look for. I think that’s what they got me for. I appreciate the coaching staff just giving me the opportunity to make an impact and show what I could do.”
Smith was a four-star recruit out of Fort Bend Dulles High in Texas. He played with Dolphins 2016 third-round pick
“Even before I came here, I always told (Howard) that I would love to play here,” Smith said. “He was giving some insights and heads up on things.”
Smith, who says he models his game after Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, was named a team captain at Georgia last fall despite being a first-year player in the program.
His move from Alabama took some twists and turns because Nick Saban, the head coach at Alabama since leaving the Dolphins more than a decade ago, initially resisted the transfer.
According to The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia, there were some stipulations in place for both Smith and the Georgia football program for the transfer to take place. Since it was an intraconference move, Smith was mandated to enroll in nine hours of graduate classes during the season. Smith is required to complete his graduate program of public health before the 2018-19 academic year by the SEC. Otherwise, Georgia won’t be able to use a conditional waiver for an intraconference graduate transfer until Smith completes his graduate degree or the 2021-22 academic year.
But if Smith makes an NFL roster, the Bulldogs could apply for a waiver to avoid any punishment from the SEC.
“It was a good move,” Smith said. “Looking back on it, I think I left everything the right way. I left the program the right way. I don’t have any regrets. I think overall it was a good move.
“I was the first one to graduate from my family. Before that, I always told them that I would do that before I made any movements or any moves to the NFL. I told them that I would be one thing that I promised I’d do: graduate in three years.”
To make it happen, Smith stayed in Tuscaloosa during the summer to take classes at Alabama.
“I never got to go home, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “I’d stay in the summer and just made sure I had to grind in the classes. Not going home, it was tough. But at the end, now looking back, I’m glad I did it.”