Smith fires downfield
In his rookie season, Brad Smith played wide receiver, quarterback and running back in addition to contributing on special teams. Not only did Smith play an assortment of positions, he managed to play each of them effectively.
Smith, a former Missouri quarterback, became one of college football's more prolific performers during his stay in Columbia. Among dozens of various college records he holds, Smith became the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 4,000 yards and pass for at least 8,000 yards in a career.
The Jets selected Smith in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft with the intentions to convert him to an entirely new position. According to the soft-spoken Smith, who earned the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award at Mizzou, a position is just a title and football is football.
"I'm a football player," Smith said in the early stages of his rookie year. "A football player is a guy who wants to make plays, and good football players make plays. That is what I'm trying to do."
"He is an outstanding football player," said head coach Eric Mangini shortly after the Jets drafted Smith with the 103rd overall selection. "He can catch the ball, he can throw the ball, and he can do a lot of things. How he fits for us is something we're going to find out. I wouldn't rule anything out of the realm of possibility."
It didn't take long for Smith, a 6'2" 210-pound Youngstown, Ohio native, to prove his explosiveness. In just the Jets' second preseason game, Smith scored on a 61-yard run against the Washington Redskins following a perfectly executed reverse. Just two weeks later, Smith was behind center as the Jets' quarterback for the entire fourth quarter against the Eagles. His nine-yard touchdown run proved to be the game-winning score in a 20-17 comeback victory.
Despite having his name fittingly scattered throughout the team's depth chart, Smith did not struggle with the learning and mastering of multiple positions. The rookie somehow managed to corral all of the information quickly and produce competitively at each spot.
"I really just tried to focus on what I'm doing," Smith said. "Coach wanted me to come in here and focus on receiver, and that is what I've done and I'm still doing. If things come up where I can possibly help the team out, that is a great opportunity for me to jump in and help."
Aside from his 103 rushing yards and 61 receiving yards in a role as third receiver, fourth quarterback and fifth running back, Smith caused other problems for defenses. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer used Smith in a number of different formations, especially on third down. Smith occasionally lined up as a short yardage quarterback but not in customary fashion. He would start at wideout before settling behind center Nick Mangold while quarterback Chad Pennington stood in the shotgun position behind Smith. There were even instances where Smith would impede on punter Ben Graham's snap count on fourth and short to get the opposing return team to waste a timeout.
Smith soon thrived at such new aspects of the game like tackling, receiving, and blocking. He collected 11 special teams' tackles during his first professional campaign. After his week six performance, Smith even earned Jets' Special Teams Player of the Week honors for three critical tackles on punt and kickoff coverage against the Dolphins.
"It's definitely fun; you never get stuck in one spot," he said. "Whether it's in the backfield or at receiver, I'm trying to get the whole perspective and that has helped me out a lot. Not focusing on one thing, but trying to get the big picture on where everybody fits, where a receiver needs to get before a block, what hole a running back needs to get to, things like that."
Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who was voted Team MVP by his teammates, thinks the world of Smith.
"The boy is a game-breaker," said Coles of No. 16. "He is a game-changer. Every time he steps onto the field, teams have to respect where he is at. He can run, throw, catch - he can do it all. He reminds me of the way they used (Antwaan) Randle El over in Pittsburgh. He is a great athlete - a star in the making."