Durham News: Sports

Ryan Smith attracts more attention at N.C. Central’s Pro Day

Ryan Smith (2) of N.C. Central has been rated a top performer at NFL combines.
Ryan Smith (2) of N.C. Central has been rated a top performer at NFL combines.

Twenty-six NFL scouts attended N.C. Central’s pro day last week to evaluate several Division I and II prospects.

No one there doubted who was the star of the show.

Former Eagles cornerback Ryan Smith was coming off an impressive NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., the first NCCU player to get such an invite. He was listed as a “Top Performer” among the 37 cornerbacks at the combine.

Scouts surrounded Smith after his drills Wednesday with a myriad of questions, which media members were not privy to.

Aaron Wilson, who covers the Texans for The Houston Chronicle, said Smith is “a fast-rising NFL draft prospect.”

In Wilson’s article on NationalFootballPost.com, he wrote that Smith has private workouts scheduled with the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers.

Former Howard University all-conference defensive back Tim Watson said Smith is a second-round talent that should not last past the fourth round of the NFL draft.

“He not only has all the athleticism you want, and has good ball skills; but this young man is an elite ‘Dog Corner,’” Watson wrote in his sports blog. “He can tackle with the best of the best, and has the bulk, strength and power to be physical.”

Smith is coming off a senior season that included all-conference recognition as both a defensive back and a return specialist. He ranked third in the MEAC with a team-best 11 passes defended (two interceptions and nine pass breakups), while adding 52 tackles (38 solo).

Smith also led the conference and was ranked 10th in the nation with an average of 28.1 yards per kickoff return.

During his standout four-year career from 2012 to 2015, he broke the school record for solo tackles with 168, while finishing sixth in career tackles with 263 and 11th in passes defended (with 31 – seven interceptions and 24 pass breakups).

After helping to lead the Eagles to their second straight MEAC championship, Smith graduated on Dec. 12 with a degree in criminal justice.

Dangerous sport

They may look pretty on the sidelines, but high school cheerleaders have the second-highest number of catastrophic accidents, according to Maddie Gardner of UNC Media Hub. Football is No. 1.

Most cheerleading squads are part cheer, part gymnastics, but it’s the gymnastics part that’s so dangerous.

Baylee Atkins hit the floor hard after falling seven feet from a pyramid stunt.

“I’ve never hit my head so hard before,” Atkins told Gardner. “My head was pounding so hard, and my cheer coach came over and she saw, automatically, that there was blood.”

Dr. Johna Register-Mihalik said a fall from the top of a cheerleading pyramid can have the same effect as a football hit.

“I just think people don’t expect cheerleaders to get injured,” said Register-Mihalik, an assistant professor in UNC’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. “We see cheerleaders practicing advanced stunts – you know – without pads, without mats, without spotters on very hard surfaces.”

Atkins’ head injury kept her out for two weeks. It also changed a school policy that prohibited cheerleaders from performing stunts for the remainder of the season.

But even with her injury, Atkins was not deterred.

“I wish we could do stunts still, because people get hurt in every single sport,” she said.