With the chance to return home and play in a game he idolized, former Southern Miss running back Ito Smith accepted the challenge and set out to make the most of his Senior Bowl experience. Smith is the first Southern Miss player to play in the Senior Bowl since Jamie Collins in 2012.
The week-long process of workouts, meetings, practice and fan events can ask a lot out of the emerging prospects that are put on display in Smith’s hometown of Mobile, Alabama, but it was an experience that drew high praise for Smith.
After the end of a three-day practice stretch in preparation for the game, Smith reflected on his time on the field with an array of talent competing for the same goal. All week long the message seemed to be the same: Smith was determined to do nothing else but grow from this opportunity.
“I had a great experience,” Smith said. “I’ve been getting coached by some of the best coaches in the county. I’m just trying to go out every day competing and getting better.”
Smith played on the South team which was led by the Houston Texans coaching staff. Head Coach Bill O’Brien was impressed by Smith’s abilities after having the chance to coach him.
“He really stood out to me,” O’Brien said. “I think he’s got a really good approach to practice. He practices really hard. He’s got really good quickness, [and] he’s built low to the ground. He’s got good strength and catches the ball out of the backfield. I was very impressed with him.”
Smith got a look as the South team’s running back on four different series during the game itself. He recorded four carries for 23 yards, caught two balls out of the backfield and a two-point conversion in the South’s 45-16 route of the North side.
The 5-foot-9, 201-pounder said he spoke to over 25 teams throughout the process of the event. Not only that, but Smith also touted a few NFL comparisons from analysts and scouts. Chad Reuter, an NFL.com Draft Analyst, told The Student Printz that Smith could play a similar role as James White does for the New England Patriots.
“He’s done everything well,” Reuter said. “Obviously, he’s been great at USM, but his quickness and eagerness in pass-pro against a consistently high level of competition this week has been impressive. I expect he’ll succeed. He’s a really good back that could end up playing a role like James White does for the Patriots… or maybe more.”