Updated, 11:00 p.m. ET
Smith, the 6'3", 218-pounder from Miramar, a 5-mile trip from the Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium, ran a high-powered Mountaineers offense out of the shotgun so effectively that many draftniks thought for a long time he would be the first QB taken and maybe even a top-five pick.
The announcement of the Smith selection, made at the Radio City Music Hall podium by former Jets great wideout Wayne Chrebet, was greeted by a loud reaction from Jets fans at the draft venue, many of whom seemed very happy to welcome him to the Jets' QB meeting room, more crowded than ever, that at the moment also contains
"I’m just extremely blessed," Smith, who was back at Radio City after spending all night there Thursday without being selected, told ESPN's Adam Schefter minutes after the selection. "It's been tough. It's been hard to gut out," he said emotionally. "The work is just beginning for me, so I’m proud to be a Jet."
A short time later, he told Jets reporters on a conference call that waiting as long as he had to before being drafted "was just a test of patience, a test of character. I wanted to make it my duty to come back today and still represent my family and all those who have supported me.
Should he have been a first-rounder?
"You know, right now none of that matters. I wasn't," he said. "I'm just excited to be a part of the NFL and like I said, I'm excited to be a Jet. My time has come now, so I want to accept it."
Smith, whose full name is Eugene Cyril Smith III, is the fourth quarterback since 2000 taken in the first two rounds of a draft by the Jets, following Chad Pennington (Round 1, No. 18, '00), Kellen Clemens (Round 2, No. 49, '06), and Sanchez (Round 1, No. 5, '09). Smith is also the first West Virginia player tabbed by the Jets since they went with TE Anthony Becht 27th overall in the Pennington draft of 2000.
Smith parlayed his impressive size, mobility and arm strength into 55 touchdowns to 14 interceptions at at a brisk 65% completion rate in 2010-11 at WVU. He and the Mountaineers started hot last season, opening with five wins, a 24-to-0 TD passes-to-interceptions ratio, and 81.4% accuracy. Then in big losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State, his accuracy and TD rate went down and he threw his first two picks.
He finished his career with 19-for-28 passing for 201 yards and two TDs but also was caught for two safeties in West Virginia's 38-14 Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse. He completed 67.4% of his passes in four WVU seasons, three as the starter, and finished with 98 TDs to 21 INTs.
He struggled with his footwork while coming out from under center at the combine, then performed better at his pro day on March 15.
"He threw the ball very well and he threw it accurately," said Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway. "He was very impressive in that pro day."
Smith added that his combine meetings with the Jets were "pretty good" and his predraft visit to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center "went well." And when the Jets were on the clock around 7 p.m. ET, "I had a feeling."
But he has no particular feelings on how he fits into the Jets' QB panorama just yet.
"That's up to Mr. Idzik and Coach Ryan and what decisions they're going to make there. I'm coming in with the intentions to compete and we'll see where it goes from there," he said. "The only thing they guaranteed me was that I was going to be a Jet today. Now it's time for me to go in and meet with them and see where that all stands."
General manager John Idzik said the immediate decision regarding Smith is very simple.
"Our plan is for Geno to compete," he said. "We've been pretty open and transparent about that theme, and that's going to continue. We're bringing in the highest-quality competition at every position, and Geno is certainly an example of that."
He added that Sanchez was not informed of the Jets' plans to draft Smith today or a quarterback who could take his starting job of the previous four seasons, but that Sanchez is well aware that he'll be battling for the job this year.
"Mark is open to that. We've had discussions about that. I think he buys into the fact that it helps him and it helps our team," Idzik said. "What it means to Mark is that we've added competition, just like when we signed David [Garrard]."
Smith is confident enough already to repeat his prediction that he thinks the Jets will make the playoffs this year. And that's OK with head coach Rex Ryan, who made a prediction or two of his own back in the day.
"I hope he's right," Ryan said tonight. "I think that speaks about the kind of competitor he is, the kind of teammate he is. I think he believes in himself and he believes in this team. I appreciate that the guy believes he's coming in as a rookie to a team that's good enough to go to the playoffs. Those are the expectations we set for ourselves always.
"We'll see if that pans out. Certainly I think that's the right mentality to have."