North Carolina

Why UNC linebacker Andre Smith decided to jump to the NFL

UNC linebacker Andre Smith: ’I believe in myself, I believe in my talent and my ability’

Smith talks about his workout following North Carolina’s Pro Timing Day for NFL scouts on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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Smith talks about his workout following North Carolina’s Pro Timing Day for NFL scouts on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Larry Fedora doesn’t talk about injuries but Andre Smith does.

It has been the No. 1 topic NFL teams have asked the North Carolina linebacker about since he decided to leave school early for the draft.

Smith was asked about his surgically-repaired knee repeatedly at the NFL combine and again on Tuesday at UNC’s Pro Day.

“Every conversation,” Smith said.

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Smith missed the final 10 games of his junior season after he tore the meniscus in his left knee.

After a standout 2016 season at middle linebacker, and two games in 2017, Smith decided it was time to make the jump.

“I got hurt early and I had a lot of time to recover and just relax and gather my thoughts,” Smith said.

Smith was measured at 5-11 — “and a half,” he quickly added — and 237 pounds at the combine in February.

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He ran the 40-yard dash — unofficially at 4.61 seconds — on Tuesday and went through a series of drills for the gathered scouts at Kenan Stadium.

“I felt great moving around,” Smith said.

Smith, and his agent, were satisfied with his 40 time so he only ran once.

“The biggest thing we want to do is get out there and show them that you can move,” Smith said.

Smith took care of that. He’s also had to talk a lot about the knee injury. Fedora’s policy is to not talk about injuries, so the details of Smith’s injury from the Louisville loss on Sept. 9 have been scant.

Smith did not tear his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which he has explained to the NFL scouts.

“Once they find that out, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re fine,’ ” Smith said.

Smith got hurt near the end of the the first quarter while tackling Louisville tight end Micky Crum.

“I stepped over him, I planted and twisted,” Smith said. “It wasn’t anything crazy.”

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He actually kept playing through the injury and finished the game with a team-high 11 tackles. It turned out to be the last time he would play in a UNC uniform.

In two games at middle linebacker this season, he had 21 tackles. He was second on the team in 2016 with 113 tackles and he had 54 as a backup in 2015.

“I felt like I had enough film,” Smith said. “I believe in myself and I believe in my talent and ability so went ahead and did it.”

Smith, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., has been projected to go anywhere from the fourth round to the seventh. His family will send him updates of where he’s projected to go but he doesn’t pay much attention to the mock drafts on the internet.

“It really doesn’t matter to me, as long as I get my foot in the door,” Smith said.

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