INDIANAPOLIS––While at the NFL Combine, East Carolina offensive lineman Willie Smith was just asked about the best player he’s ever faced.
His answer: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn who Smith described as strong and quick off the ball.
How about defensive end C.J. Wilson, a starting defensive lineman for the Packers in the Super Bowl, who Smith went up against every day during practice at East Carolina before Wilson left for the NFL?
“C.J., that’s my boy right there,” said Smith, his seemingly perpetual smile growing even wider. “Me and him had a lot of battles in practice. I shut him down in practice too.”
Responding with a chuckle, you get the feeling Smith and Wilson each had their fair share of ‘wins’ in their daily battles.
“He’s fast and strong,” said Smith of Wilson. “Obviously he did something right. He’s in the NFL, he just got a Super Bowl ring.”
Early in his college career, Smith joined Wilson on the defensive side of the football at ECU.
“When I got to Greenville, I was playing defensive end, played a little defensive tackle,” said Smith. “Then I made the move.
“I wanted to catch some balls. I played tight end for about a year, then I moved over to tackle. I loved it as soon as I moved over there.”
Smith said he missed the aspect of being able to hit the quarterback but felt just as good attempting to protect the signal caller.
The NFL draft prospect says he learned a thing or two from playing on the defensive line.
“The defensive end’s job is to get you to turn your shoulders or get you on your edge,” said Smith. “But me knowing that, I know to not do those things to give him an advantage over me. So I stay square and punch him when they give me and opportunity to punch them.”
Following a decorated college career, Smith’s challenge is to entice an NFL team to select him this coming April.
Figured by many to be a mid- to late-round draft choice, Smith looks to play tackle in the pros just like he did at college, although he did play some guard at the Texas Vs. the Nation all-star game in early February.
Smith said he met with Packers representatives while in San Antonio that week.
The offensive lineman also said he got some advice from the current member of the Packers as he prepares to go through the physical rigors of the Combine.
“He just told me to go out here and give it my all,” said Smith. “That’s all I’m going to do.”