Tye Smith’s football abilities were overlooked for a long time, but not at last week’s NFL draft.
The Seattle Seahawks selected him in the fifth round, a pretty good omen for the 2011 Wakefield High product.
In 2010, the Seahawks selected Kam Chancellor in the fifth round. In 2011, Seattle picked Richard Sherman in the fifth. Both are All-Pros and mainstays in the Seahawks’ secondary, the Legion of Boom.
“It’s a blessing to be picked by Seattle,” Smith said. “I’m going in with the attitude that I have a lot to learn. I know there is so much that I can learn from them.
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“I am going to put in the work. I am going to learn from them. I am humble and ready to get to work. I know that I am going to have to work hard every day.”
Smith may be a long shot to make the team. He is 6 feet 1 inch, weighs 190 pounds and during an NFL combine ran 40 yards in an unimpressive 4.6. He later came back on his Pro Day and posted a 4.47 and a 4.51.
He is used to having to earn every step he takes.
Good high school player
Smith has played football since he was 5 years old. He played in the Cleveland community and later for the Capital City Steelers in the rec leagues. His Steelers team traveled to the youth league championship in Orlando, Fla.
He was a good player on a great 10-3 Wakefield team that featured quarterback Connor Mitch (an eventual South Carolina recruit) and receiver Jordan Fielleteau (North Carolina).
Smith had 10 catches for 164 yards as a receiver, but also started on defense. He received only one scholarship offer.
Towson University assistant Derrick Johnson saw Smith at a camp at N.C. State and reached out. Towson was Smith’s only option to play football.
“I saw him before his junior year at the N.C. State camp and he had speed and agility,” Johnson said. “I kept in touch. His game films as a junior were OK. But the next year, I noticed that he had gotten a lot better. He was much more physical. He had played some receiver and had made big plays.
“He was a player, to me that had a big upside.”
Smith made a quick impression at Towson. He would wait outside the weight room before it opened in the morning, and in workouts he was eager to learn.
“The first game he got into, against New Hampshire, he had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown,” Johnson said. “From then on, he was a fixture.”
Smith’s best game at the Maryland school came in one of the biggest. In September 2012, he had 10 tackles, including nine solos, two sacks, one forced fumble and one pass break up in a 38-22 loss to LSU, which was ranked No. 3 in the country at the time.
“He was his best against the best competition,” Johnson said.
‘A late bloomer’
After the game, Towson coach Rob Ambrose said, “I’m extremely conflicted. You don’t line up to lose. With that being said, as a head coach, as an alum, as a father, I don’t think it’s humanly possible for me to be more proud of these players.”
Smith was a three-time all-Colonial Athletic Association selection and an FCS all-American at cornerback. He started 42 games, including 38 of the Tigers’ last 39 games, intercepted six passes and made 312 tackles.
“I was a late bloomer,” Smith said. “I was overlooked in high school. I wasn’t fully developed yet.
“Tye Smith defines the underdog,” said agent Sean Stellato. “He is a high-character young man with an exceptional work ethic and possesses a unique skill set. This is how his parents raised him.”
He likes to tackle.
“I play a physical corner,” Smith said. “I take a lot of pride in my tackling.”
Johnson said Smith has a chance of making the Seahawks’ roster.
“He is going in with the idea of getting better. He wants to learn,” Johnson said. “But ultimately he is going to have to compete for a position, a job. He is going to emulate those guys, but he will have to compete with them, too.”