Jared Smith headed to NFL Combine

By Nick Stoico
On February 19, 2013

"Fat Rabbit" is perhaps the most flattering nickname a defensive tackle can be given. Heavy and strong, yet quick and elusive: the perfect combination for dominant inside defensive force. Jared Smith was rightfully dubbed "Fat Rabbit" in the UNH locker room as he tips the scales just under 300 pounds (292 pounds to be precise) and is recognized for his lateral speed and ability to chase down ball carriers.

Smith's unique combination of skills and ability has earned him enough attention from NFL scouts to be invited to the NFL Combine on Feb. 25 in Indianapolis, Ind

The invite-only event allows NFL coaches, scouts and general managers to put players under the microscope and gauge their football abilities, both physically and psychologically.

Smith was elated when he got word of his invitation.

"I was studying in the library and my agent called me," Smith said. "It was a dream come true."

An invite to the NFL Combine is practically unheard of at UNH.

"It is pretty special when a kid gets invited to the combine from the University of New Hampshire," UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said.

The Football Championship Subdivision does not produce nearly the same number of NFL caliber players the Football Bowl Subdivision does, but there are certainly a few notables who spent their college careers in the FCS (see Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco who donned the Delaware Blue Hens yellow and blue before sporting the Baltimore Ravens logo on his chest).

Smith, who graduated from UNH in December with a degree in Kinesiology, was a frequent concern for opposing offenses during his career with the Wildcats. 

In his senior season, Smith started 11 of 12 games (he missed the Sept. 29 date with Delaware after spraining his knee against Old Dominion the previous week) and led the team with 10 tackles for a loss. Smith tallied 40 tackles that season, with four sacks, two forced fumbles and three blocked kicks.

McDonnell, who just wrapped up his 14th season as head coach of the Wildcats, considers Smith to be one of the best defensive tackles he has worked with.

"Probably out of all the defensive tackles, (Smith) and Steve Young stand out the most," McDonnell said. "He could be one of the strongest kids we have had in this program."

"Jared is a game changer," UNH defensive back Manny Asam said. "When you play defense, it starts with the interior... When Jared performs, the whole defense flows."

The Greencastle, Pa. native was recruited by former UNH offensive coordinator (and current offensive coordinator at Florida International University) Tim Cramsey in 2007-08. After a visit to Durham and meeting with the coaches, Smith decided UNH was the place for him.

"You don't find people like the UNH coaches," Smith said. "They prepare you and are always there for you." 

Smith has received several accolades for his performance, including an invite to play in the highly esteemed Texas vs. The Nation game, in which Smith recorded two sacks. 

He is also on the radar of several NFL scouting experts. ESPN 101 of St. Louis's NFL Insider Tony Softli projects Smith to be drafted in the sixth round while the National Football Post ranks Smith at 20 on its defensive tackle prospects list. It will be tough for Smith to stand out in this defensive-tackle-heavy draft class.

The question on NFL scout's minds, McDonnell said, will be if Smith is ready to compete at the NFL level. Both McDonnell and Smith stressed the importance of mental strength and how that is truly the main focus of the combine.

"The coaches and scouts are going to break you down," Smith said. "See how tough you are mentally."

Smith has been given the ultimate opportunity to prove he belongs in the NFL, a chance many dream of but few get.

"Jared grew up in this program and has given himself an opportunity to get to the NFL by a lot of hard work," McDonnell said. "He'll be in an NFL camp."

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