Geno Smith has big dreams. Growing up, the Jets rookie QB looked up to the "Air" and grew fond of arguably the greatest competitor the sports world has ever seen.
"It wasn't even a football player man," he told me on a "Jets Talk LIVE" installment that will air at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday on NYJets.com. "I was a big Michael Jordan fan, just from the things that I read and heard about him is he always held his teammates to the utmost accountability. That's something I try and do. I try to hold myself to the highest standard possible."
It was an interesting answer because the 50-year-old Jordan is more than twice the age of the 22-year-old Smith. But Smith is a fierce competitor and the accurate passer has zoomed in on perfection.
"Man, I try to have a perfect practice. I haven't had one yet, but I try to go out there and I try to be perfect in practice," he said. "That's kind of what I've always done. I started doing that in high school and I just think that helped me develop into the player I was. I try to go out there and be perfect, and try to do everything the right way, the proper way so the coach doesn't really have to coach me much.
"But I'm still in the learning phase, making mistakes every day and you get into the film room and you go watch it. But the benchmark so far is to try and be mistake-free and (I'm) just learning as much as I can."
Smith, who received first-team reps both Sunday and Monday, is locked in a competition with veteran Mark Sanchez for the starting position. The rookie has looked poised daily on the practice field, zipping the ball with ease and showcasing his 4.5 speed. And while he has yet to be picked off, Rex Ryan would like to see Smith get rid of the ball earlier when pressure is bearing down on the QB.
"I think you should always set the standards high. Even if you miss your mark —if you fall somewhere around that area — you did pretty good," he said. "You can look at the positives and you can look at the very minute negatives that you may have and just learn from it and continue to improve. That helps us as athletes, that helps us as people and that helps us get better every day."
Taking each challenge in stride, Smith has gotten off to a fast start at his first pro training camp. He expects a lot out of himself and he has embraced this new journey.
"I think the most difficult adjustment for me was just moving from college to the NFL — I mean everything as a whole. I wouldn't say the offense is really that hard to pick up if you study it, if you work hard at it," he said. "But picking up the speed of the game, playing against Rex's defense along with learning a new offense makes it a bit more challenging. I face those challenges every day and I accept them and I welcome them."
In addition to our exclusive interview with Smith, we will also air our 1-on-1 with rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and camp highlights. "Jets Talk LIVE" will air at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday.