A Different Side Of Marcus Smith

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

MOBILE, Ala. — When Lorenzo Mauldin thinks about his former roommate at Louisville, Marcus Smith, he doesn’t see a first-round pick who couldn’t get on the field as a rookie.

He doesn’t see a bust or a player who is destined to fail at the NFL level. Rather, he thinks of former walk-on Dominique Dishman.

The way Mauldin tells it, things weren’t going well for Dishman at Louisville, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue playing football. That’s when Smith stepped in.

“We actually had a walk-on on our team, and he quit,” Mauldin explined. “Marcus got into his head a little bit and started talking to him about how God has a plan for him and everything. He had the talent, so he had to go out there and show it. He had to work a little harder because he was a walk-on.

“I’m sitting there listening to all of this and I’m giving my input, but basically more listening to Marcus. The guy thought about it for a good week or two and then ended up coming back. I’ve heard him talk to Marcus, and Marcus told him, ‘You did the right thing.’ The guy was like, ‘I appreciate you talking me back into getting back on the team.’ I can say he’s a leader when it comes to helping people.

“I see what impact he has on people, and I liked the way that people responded to him when he did that. …He’s a guy that I looked up to when it came to playing next to him and playing on the opposite side of him. He’s very dependable. He’s like a brother to me.”

Mauldin, an edge rusher who has looked good during Senior Bowl practices, is tight with Smith. They talk all the time and were able to meet up earlier this offseason in California.

When the Eagles moved Smith to inside linebacker during the season, he talked to Mauldin about it. When Mauldin was looking for advice about the pre-draft process, he contacted Smith.

Mauldin admits that he has a biased view. But given that many are ready to write Smith off after a rookie season in which he only played 74 defensive snaps, perhaps perspective from the other end of the spectrum is warranted.

Asked if he thinks Smith can rebound and be a productive player, Mauldin said: “I have no doubt at all because Marcus is a hard worker. He’s gonna do what he has to do to get on the field. I was talking to him up in California. He was saying, ‘Just watch, bro. Just watch. You’re gonna see me on the field a lot more, not on the sideline next year. Just be on the lookout for me.’ I was like, ‘I don’t doubt you at all because I’ve played with you so I know what you’re capable of.’ ”

The physical tools have always been there for Smith, but the mental wear and tear of being a first-round pick who doesn’t contribute right away can take its toll.

Chip Kelly and Billy Davis were honest in their assessments of Smith all season long. Neither sugar-coated their opinions or made excuses for the rookie.

According to Mauldin, Smith can handle the tough love.

“Dealing with a guy like Coach [Clint] Hurtt, he was our former D-Line coach at Louisville, now coaches for the Bears, dealing with him, we always got our butts whipped about not finishing and listening to outside people and being able to cope with that type of stuff,” Mauldin explained. “He’s taught us so well to forget that type of stuff and just play your game wherever you are. He told us at Louisville, ‘They may change your position when you get to the league. You have no control over that unless you don’t want your paycheck.’ Marcus is high-spirited. He just wants to shine wherever they put him.”

The Senior Bowl was where Smith started to make a name for himself during the pre-draft process. A year later, he’ll look to put in an offseason of work not knowing whether he’s going to line up at inside or outside linebacker in the spring.

There are plenty of reasons to question whether he’s going to be able to rebound in Year 2, but Mauldin believes when all is said and done, Eagles fans will feel better about last year’s first-round pick.

“Marcus is a guy that’s high-spirited and doesn’t really get offended by most things,” Mauldin said. “He’s relentless. He doesn’t give up in a game. You can see that. All I can do is really look up to him.”