Over the past nine years I have had the opportunity to know Eric Smith as my teammate, but recently that has changed. Smith is now a member of the New York Jets coaching staff as a special teams intern.
As players, Eric and I have shared many experiences on and off the field. We were both drafted in 2006 by the New York Jets, we played in back-to-back AFC Championship Games, and we have even gone fishing together off the Jersey shore. However, this will be a new experience for both of us.
I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Eric to understand his thoughts on becoming a coach.
"It was something I've kind of thought about since I've been playing," he told me. "Talking to [former Jets special teams coordinator] Mike Westhoff, he asked me if I was interested in doing anything like this and I guess he put the word out. I started talking to Rex Ryan about it and that's how all this started."
As football players, we have a unique perspective on the game, but I was curious what was different about being a coach. Given his new position, Eric was now knowledgeable about both.
"As players we kind of focus on what our role is, how the tight end was going to run routes or what formations are going to make me check into different coverages," he said. "Now I've got to look at what player needs to be in what position to accomplish what we are trying to get done. You've got to look at it from the entire aspect rather than just centered on what my responsibility was."
This was very insightful to me.
Eric has always been regarded as a smart player, bearing witness to this at team meetings. Whenever asked about the opposing team, his responses were of one who knew his opponent well. When I learned that Eric was going to be a new coach, I knew, from our time together as players and friends, that the Jets had made an excellent choice.
What I didn't know was, if given the chance, would Eric correct me if he saw that I was doing something wrong on the practice field? Without hesitation he answered, "Oh, of course." We laughed for several moments, and then he said, "If I see you do something wrong and I let you do it wrong, I'm not only hurting myself, I am hurting you, too, and the team." With that response, I knew Eric was ready to take on his new responsibility as a coach.
Playing in the NFL is an experience only a few can say they have taken part in. Eric Smith has accomplished a great feat in not only playing in the NFL but also in now coaching at the highest level. Will my former teammate really correct me on the football field? I will wait in anticipation. But I do have a healthy respect for him and I am proud to call him my coach.