You don’t usually receive a hardy “Cheers, mate” when you introduce yourself to a professional football player, unless of course you’re shaking hands with Aussie native and Jets hopeful
The 28-year-old Smith is entering his second season with the Jets, coming off his NFL rookie season in which he played in five games and recorded one reception for 16 yards.
Smith continues to face the unique challenge of taking the skills he developed playing professional rugby and collegiate basketball and transitioning them onto the football field. He is confident that his past athletic endeavors have translated to his new profession.
“My basketball background made the passing game just more natural. The blocking is something that I’ve had to spend some time with,” he said. “Obviously it still needs improvement. I don’t think anyone is ever satisfied with where they are so I'll continue to work hard on all aspects of my game.”
Smith believes that the antidote for any growing pains he may feel is simply getting out on the field and playing football.
"When you first jump in, there’s a lot of elements that are very foreign," he said. "The more you play the game, the more you can just be comfortable in what’s going on and what you are trying to achieve on each individual play.”
Hayden Smith has worked predominantly with the third-team offense, fighting for the third tight end spot with fellow second-year man
“He’s an incredible athlete,” Reuland said. “He’s been able to play three different sports at a high level. I would say he’s done a heck of a job and he’s gotten a lot better. He’s definitely coming on strong.”
Both men have showed promise through the first two weeks of training camp, Smith employing a strategy that has him focusing on “working on one thing every day.”
“We watch the film pretty extensively every day and we're always picking up little things that you feel like you need to get better with,” he said. “It's just a process of picking out and identifying those things and coming out the next day and trying to be better in those areas.”
As impressive as Smith and Reuland have been during the Jets' stay at SUNY Cortland (for instance, each caught a short touchdown pass during goal line drills last Friday), their NFL readiness will be tested Friday night when the Jets take on the Detroit Lions in their first preseason game.
“It's exciting. It's been over six months since we’ve been able to put the pads on against another team and play a little bit of football,” Smith said. “It's certainly a lot longer offseason than what I’m used to in rugby.”
Smith wasn’t able to hide to his enthusiasm when asked to comment on finally being able to hit somebody on a different team.
“It would be nice,” he said, a slight grin creeping across his face. “It would definitely be nice.”