Other Side of the Ball: An Interview with Derrell Smith
“It’s a challenge because I have to get used to listening to a huddle call rather than deciphering a hand signal. But, with practice comes experience and I think that each day I am working towards getting better at my new position.”
- Derrell Smith, Houston Texans Fullback
Derrell Smith is going into his 2nd year with the Houston Texans and is facing a big transition from linebacker to newly appointed fullback. Smith (6’2”, 232, 23 yrs.,) was an undrafted free-agent in 2011 and played on the Texans practice squad as a inside linebacker his first year with the NFL. However, with offseason changes including the cut of FB Lawrence Vickers along with the HC Gary Kubiak quote, “James (Casey) is going to play all over the place,” the Texans are potentially at a loss when it comes to a lead-blocking FB. Kubiak sees potential in moving Smith from LB to the other side of the ball.
It also appears Kubiak feels comfortable about the Texans options at FB, despite the lack of experience currently available on the roster. Per Nick Scurfield, Kubiak says: “We’ve had some success building those guys, so to speak. I mean, Vonta (Leach) came in and did a great job for us. James (Casey) is doing a great job. Vickers played well for us last year. So, we feel good about the direction we’re heading.” As of now, Kubiak has Smith and 2012 UDFA Jason Ford battling it out for the coveted FB role.
Derrell Smith started his college career at Syracuse at running back, after having earned the Gatorade Player of the Year in Delaware when he rushed for 1225 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior year of high school. At Syracuse University, he was moved to middle linebacker where he was a three-year starter, twice-selected to the All-Big East second-team and elected team captain. Smith was selected Syracuse football’s co-MVP, receiving the Bill Horr award for the 2010 season.
Derrell Smith is no slouch off the field either. He’s an intelligent man who was All-Academic Big East from 2007-2010, earned two degrees from Syracuse in Marketing and Information Management & Technology and is closing in on a Master’s degree in Advertising.
After a good pro-day in 2011, Smith went undrafted, but was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and signed to their practice squad. Upon being released from the Buccaneers squad, Smith was picked up on the Texans practice squad in November 2011 and re-signed with the team in January 2012. Although the move to FB is so new that Smith is still listed as LB on the HoustonTexans.com website, Smith is ready for what the NFL, Houston Texans and life back on the offensive side of the ball have in store for him.
Thanks for having me. This offseason was extremely productive. I had the opportunity to return to graduate school and complete a few more credits towards my master’s degree. I am going for advertising and, post football, would like to develop the concept for and ultimately film commercials. Maybe even be an actor!
How about a little background: how were you recruited by Syracuse and what was that process like?
I like to call my journey to Syracuse a match made “from” heaven, because it was a long, nerve-wracking process entailing many nights of prayers from my family and me which, in the end, resulted in a definitive occurrence of divine intervention!
To make a long story short, I was going back and forth between the Naval Academy and Syracuse. Syracuse had yet to offer, therefore, my family and I decided that the best choice would be to attend the Naval Academy (ie. proximity to my home in Delaware, great education, etc.). One evening, two nights before national signing day, if my memory serves me right, I called Coach Green from the Academy and had every intention of committing to the Navy. However, (here’s when divine intervention kicks in) while on the phone with the Naval Academy, Syracuse University calls and offers me a scholarship; the rest is history [haha].
What did Syracuse University mean to you as a student athlete and who were your biggest influences there?
Syracuse was and will always be my second home. Syracuse developed me as a person and equipped me with the tools to make it in life. I feel as though I am loved my many there and those “many” have been huge influences along my road to success.
Personally, I believe that a person’s personality is an ongoing building process and is influenced by experiences and individuals you allow to shape it, hence, the old saying “you are who you surround yourself with.” With that being said, there are two individuals at Syracuse University that molded me into who I am today. My two best friends: Bruce Williams and Shatara Miller. They were my biggest fans/critics/influencers and never allowed me to put myself in a position to embarrass myself or my family.
Are you involved in other endeavors outside of football?
Currently, no. However, I do have ideas that I hope will manifest in the future. I am an extremely creative individual who loves creative things. One of my hobbies is using Photoshop and (totally on the opposite end of the spectrum,) cooking! I would love to develop a medium to express my interest and look forward to doing so in the future.
Were you disappointed not to be drafted? Then, when Bucs come calling in July of 2011, what was it like to get that call?
I was not disappointed at all. I knew that God had a plan for me and in the end I would be fine! I felt as though my college “résumé” was well written, and that my character was extremely evident, meaning that wherever I went the coaches and/or persons responsible for drafting me would realize that they received a guy that is a genuine individual and true professional in terms of handling his business.
And when the Texans rang in November, what were your thoughts?
I simply saw it as another opportunity to present myself! I was unable to work out at the combine, had an average pro day, but when they called I was ready to showcase “me.”
You were a spectator throughout the Texans first playoff run; what did you learn from the experience?
I learned the true definition of team! Each and every day at practice I had the privilege of working with a group of men who had a clear objective and were motivated to achieve it. I learned the playoff atmosphere is addictive: a drug, a high, an ecstasy! That is so seductive and desirable that once one experiences it for themselves they are hooked! I learned that in order for a dream to come true, it must first begin with a dream!
And now, we’re back to OTAs. How are you feeling about all the changes?
I feel as though it is another challenge to conquer and I am very excited moving forward.
It’s so new that you’re still listed as LB on the Texans website, so what are your thoughts on the change from LB to FB?
I see the move as an opportunity to make the Texans football team and to help our team in any way that I can.
Have you played the FB position before?
Never played fullback, per se. However, I was recruited to college as a running back and the concept of finding a hole and hitting it is something that I am familiar with.
How much of a learning curve is there for you at your new spot?
It’s a challenge because I have to get used to listening to a huddle call rather than deciphering a hand signal. But, with practice comes experience and I think that each day I am working towards getting better at my new position.
Are there any players in particular who have taken you under their wing in Houston?
Unconsciously yes. There are quite a few players on the team who I admire because they define a word that I have figured out is the hardest word to define. That word is “professional.” Our team is full of players that deserve a picture next to the word in the dictionary.
What areas of your game do you feel strongest and in what areas could you use improvement?
I feel as though I am a smart player (once I learn the playbook), and I am a physical player, as well as, coachable player. I am still too young and inexperienced in my new position to clearly define my areas of improvement, but I’m sure it will be clear once we start playing with pads [haha].
What is your goal going into the 2012 campaign?
My short-term goal is to obviously make the team. My long-term goal is to be a key contributor to my team’s success.
When you make the team, what can Texans fans expect to see when Derrell Smith straps on his helmet?
You can follow Derrell on Twitter here and support his endeavor to be the Texans new fullback!
Of course, you can and should all follow The Claire Bear on Twitter here.