Bucs’ Donovan Smith gets another chance to beat odds against Texans The NFL draft advisory board recommended that Donovan Smith stay in college for his senior year, but the 6-foot-6, 383-pound tackle wanted to turn pro after earning his degree. The Bucs ignored the board’s analysis and took Smith high in the second round. CHRIS URSO/STAFF By Roy Cummings | Tribune Staff Published: September 26, 2015HOUSTON — Stay in school.That was the conclusion the NFL’s draft advisory board came to last winter after it reviewed Penn State left tackle Donovan Smith’s college game tape and his request to enter the 2015 NFL draft following his junior season.“They changed the way they rate the players a little bit last year,” Smith said. “So, now, if they don’t think you’re going to be a first- or second-round draft pick, they basically just tell you to just stay in school. That’s what mine said.’’Stay in school.There might come a time Sunday afternoon when Smith wishes he had. Only two games into his NFL career, he’ll be tasked with protecting Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston from a Houston Texans pass rush that features superhero J.J. Watt, who has a knack for schooling even the most experienced linemen.Clearly the odds are not in Smith’s favor.But as he proved during the draft, when the Buccaneers ignored the board’s analysis and spent a high second-round pick on the 6-foot-6, 338-pound prospect, Smith has a knack for beating the odds. In fact, he’s done it all his life.There is more to fear in the small village of Amityville, New York, these days than the spooky two-story Dutch Colonial that still stands at 112 Ocean Ave. Gang violence has been on the rise there for more than a decade, including the North Amityville area, where Smith’s single mother spent five years raising Donovan and his twin sister, Ebony.“It’s pretty bad,’’ Smith said of his childhood neighborhood. “There are definitely some streets right around the corner from where we were living at the time that you don’t want to go down.’’The meaner those streets became, the more the chances of anyone making it out of North Amityville deteriorated. And the more those chances deteriorated, the more Smith’s aunt and uncle, Kim and George Smith, thought hard about pulling their niece and nephew off of those streets for good to live with them near Baltimore.“It was really my wife, Kim’s, idea,’’ George Smith said. “Donovan and his sister would always come to visit us in the summer, anyway. And when they would go to leave, it was always such a big to-do. So, we thought, given the situation in Long Island, we could provide a better environment for them to thrive in where we lived.’’Donovan and Ebony were about to become sophomores in high school when they left their mother in Amityville and made the permanent move to their aunt and uncle’s home in Owings Mills, Maryland. It was a move Smith had been hoping to make for years. But when he arrived, the environment in that quiet Baltimore suburb wasn’t all that much better.At least, not for an aspiring young football player.The Owings Mills High School Eagles were riding a four-year losing streak when Smith arrived. Practice for the 2008 season had already started the day Smith’s uncle took him to meet the coach.Smith, who already stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 280 pounds, will never forget that meeting. His uncle, who at 6-foot and 250 pounds was only a little smaller than his nephew, will never forget it either.“I’d brought it up to the coach before about bringing Donovan by and he said to me, ‘If he’s as big as you are, we can definitely use him,’” George Smith said. “So, when I brought him by that day to meet him, he couldn’t believe it. He was speechless and just smiled. And then he was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we can use him.’?”Not that Smith’s arrival changed things. An elbow sprain he suffered one day in practice eventually cost Smith the better part of his first season with the Eagles, who again finished without a victory. The streak of 53 straight losses finally came to an end a year later, when the Eagles improved to 3-6. And there’s little doubt Smith’s formidable presence along the offensive and defensive lines played a role in the reversal.“He was lining up against guys that were probably about 240 pounds or so and nowhere near as tall, so he did pretty well that first year,’’ George Smith said.Smith’s uncle wasn’t the only one to take notice of his nephew’s dominance. Though Smith’s game still lacked polish, it was good enough to earn an invitation to the U.S. Army National Combine. Modeled after the NFL’s scouting combine, the National Combine caters to the top 500 juniors in the nation. It’s a place where a player can get lost in the shuffle if his game was a raw as Smith’s.Once again, though, Smith beat the odds.He still laughs when he thinks about the tape he produced that week, but it was impressive enough to spark a flurry of phone calls from college recruiters. West Virginia was the first to call. Dozens of others followed. Throughout the recruiting process, though, nothing enticed Smith more than the opportunity to play for Joe Paterno at Penn State.He chose the Nittany Lions.Not that Donovan ever came to realize what it was like to play for Paterno. He was redshirted as a college freshman. Then, in the summer of 2012, the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke. Paterno was dismissed. And like everyone else connected with the program, Smith got swallowed up by the havoc.“It was pretty crazy, what with all the media attention and everything,’’ Smith said. “And then you had these coaches from other schools coming onto the campus and trying to see the players. It was a free-for-all.“But I never thought of leaving. There was me and about five other guys who said, ‘Hey, we have a good coach coming here in Bill O’Brien.’ And we were stepping into starting roles and we thought, ‘If we leave now, this whole thing could go down.’“So, we stuck it out.’’He was prepared to stick it out through his senior season. By the end of his junior year, though, he began to think a little differently. He’d already earned his bachelor’s degree in criminology, and the idea of playing another year of college ball when he could be playing in the pros didn’t make much sense to him.Then came that recommendation from the draft committee.“They told me to stay in school, but I was like, ‘Whatever,’ ” said Smith, who will be reuinted Sunday with O’Brien, the second-year head coach of the Texans. “I had no idea where I was going to be drafted, but I was willing to take my chances.“So far, it’s worked out OK.’’No one is more pleased than Smith’s uncle, George. Had George Smith and his wife not offered up their home as a sanctuary for Donovan and Ebony, there’s no telling where either would be now. Instead, Ebony works in the Owings Mills area after graduating from nearby Morgan State University, and Smith is in the NFL. He remains close to his mother, who still llives and works in New York.“I really can’t describe how we feel,’’ George Smith said. “We just wanted what we thought was best for Donovan and his sister. The way it’s worked out, it’s definitely a dream come true, not just for him, but for all of us.’’rcummings@tampatrib,.comTwitter: @RCummingsTBO
Don’t worry, you. He's about to go to school today. It worries me even more that Bill O'B knows ALL of Smith's weaknesses, as if they weren't obvious enough by film watching. I really hope Smith has received a few pointers to help ease the pain he is about to go through."It's a learning experience""It's only his third game""He's too slow"We are about to see if Don Smith has enough thump to stay in front and be a bully, not a wimp. And let's see if his big slow feet can beat the "odds" of staying in front of Clown. He has to maul that guy. Beat the crap out of him. All. Game. Long. Be cat quick. Get hyped up and defend your manhood and your quarterback. Build a brotherhood and the wins will come. But the Oline needs to work with each other, be smart as hell, and tougher than nails. Beat the piss out of those guys. Make Wilfork feel retirement coming...he is getting old as hell. Bucs need to outwork him. Watt is going to get his, but staying in front and fighting like hell, like you are protecting your family, can sustain them. They can't get down. Ever. Stay positive and play together, get each other's back. Junction City Boys. Stay organized. They can do this. They NEED to do this. Protect the QB!!!
Viewing 2 reply threads
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.