Former Alabama TE Irv Smith Jr. comes to Minnesota with a big game and a big name. Smith is the son of former NFL TE Irv Smith Sr., who played seven seasons with the Saints, 49ers, and Browns.
Smith Jr., who was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Vikings on Friday night, gives Minnesota another option at tight end if they wanted to move on from veteran TE Kyle Rudolph, which some believe could happen. According to the NFL Network’s Albert Breer, teams are calling the Vikings about Rudolph, and if things go as some think, Smith Jr. could be a starter with the Vikings in 2019.
Last season at Alabama, Smith Jr. had 44 receptions for 710 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Growing up in New Orleans, and going to school in Alabama, Smith Jr. is not used to the cold weather that he will experience in Minnesota(fortunately, the Vikings play in a dome), which was one of the topics he discussed on a conference call on Friday night. Smith also addressed his relationship with his dad, Irv Smith Sr., Rudolph, O.J. Howard, and more:
Q: What was it like growing up in a football family?
Smith: It was amazing. My dad doing all the things that he’s done, as a young man having him as a mentor and seeing all his footballs, his helmets, his trophies and everything around the house, just seeing all that motivated me to put myself in this position I’m in today.
Q: What do you know about Kyle Rudolph, and how do you see the two of you working together?
Smith: I see him as a player that I definitely looked up to playing football, especially as a tight end. He’s done so much, been a Pro Bowl player, and I can’t wait to work with him and learn from him.
Q: Did you always want to play tight end, considering that was your dad’s position too?
Smith: When I was younger I started out playing receiver. I started playing football in eighth grade, and my sophomore year I started playing tight end. After that I switched over to the position.
Q: Did your dad try to steer you in that direction?
Smith: He definitely did. At first he said, “You can be a receiver, and be slow receiver, or a fast tight end.” I wound up being a fast tight end and it worked out.
Q: What kind of advice has your dad given you throughout this process?
Smith: He’s helped me so much, honestly. Just telling me some of the things to do, some of the things not to do, learning from his mistakes. Just picking his brain. He’s helped me so much and he’s going to continue to help me throughout this.
Q: Do you take pride in your versatility and your ability to play in the slot and out wide?
Smith: Yes sir, that’s really what I pride myself in mostly. All the best tight ends in the NFL and all the greats, they were able to do both; run block and make plays in the passing game. It opens a lot for you and helps the team in all phases of the game. It’s something I pride myself on and I’ll continue to work on and improve as a player.
Q: Talk about your ability to create mismatches.
Smith: It’s something that I really pride myself on. I believe no linebacker or safety one-on-one can stay with me, and I’m going to keep proving to people [why] that’s how I feel.
Q: What did you learn from O.J. Howard, playing behind him early in your career?
Smith: I learned a lot from O.J. I was a freshman and he was a senior, and the way he carried himself as a player and a person, the way he treated everyone, that’s something that I really took from him. On the field he took no plays off, was a complete tight end, I believe, and it’s proven that he’s doing the same thing in the NFL today.
Q: How do you feel you are as a run blocker? Do you think you’re still a work in progress in that area?
Smith: Yeah, I definitely think I’m a work in progress. I went against what I feel like was the top competition in college, and I did a great job of it, but it’s definitely something that I can always improve on and it’s something that is going to be a main focus this coming year.
Q: Have you ever been to Minnesota?
Smith: Never. I can’t wait.
Q: Have you seen snow?
Smith: I’ve seen snow; I’ve never lived in it, but I’ve seen it; I’ll have to get used to it.
Q: Are you going to go out and buy a car now? I heard yours broke down on the way back from Tuscaloosa.
Smith: Yeah, I was driving form Alabama to New Orleans and it ran out on me. I had it since my sophomore year of high school, so yeah, it’s time for a new lift.