Branden Smith aims to prove critics wrong, find an NFL home

The happenings in Atlanta have a tendency to distract Branden Smith.

So the former Georgia triple threat — cornerback, return man, tailback/receiver — migrated south to Boca Raton, Fla., to train for the NFL draft and pro day.

The Atlanta native returned to his home state in March to run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, and grab the attention of a few scouts at Georgia’s pro day.

“It looked like the scouts liked me a lot, so I hope that was true,” Smith said.

His 40 time was the fastest of the day — and he pulled up the last two yards.

“I was just saving my body for the drills and everything,” Smith said. “The scouts, they got a little taste of my 40.”

A Washington High School product, Smith has prided himself on his speed throughout his prep and college careers. He also proved to be versatile while at Georgia, playing cornerback, in the nickel, handling punt returns and even getting some hand-offs on the offensive side of the ball, though his offensive touches decreased dramatically in his final season.

Smith wrapped up his defensive career at Georgia with 80 tackles, four interceptions and 16 pass break-ups.

Smith said he’s hoping that versatility attracts more attention from NFL teams. He had a meeting with the New England Patriots in mid-March, doing film work and board work.

“Wherever I go, whatever team picks me up, they really gonna know that I’m a special guy that can play all over the field,” Smith said. “Every team wishes for a player like that.”

Smith wasn’t invited to the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, a slight he said upset him, so he said he trained to match or best the numbers of the top performers from the combine.

“I was a little upset but that’s just life. Everything happens for a reason, if it’s a good reason or a bad reason,” Smith said. “I’m just ready for draft day right now.”

The 5-foot-10, 172-pound Smith said he’s faced criticism that he is too small, but said he doesn’t want that to deter his hopes for an NFL career.

“I’ve been getting judged all my life,” Smith said. “I just prove everybody wrong. I got a special heart. I’m a special kind of kid that is gonna work hard.”

Smith said it has been hard being away from his family throughout the training process.

He does, however, video chat with his 2-year-old daughter, Leiyah, each night.

But Smith will likely try to escape Atlanta’s commotion to continue the process until draft day and even after.

“I might go back down to Boca and still grind down there and get away from Atlanta. There’s a lot of stuff going on in Atlanta, so I gotta get away from that,” Smith said. “My family will understand that I’m working hard to get where I wanna go. … I’m doing this for (Leiyah).”

Blog: Video: Hutson Mason and Amarlo Herrera

by Marc Weiszer

Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason and inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera were among the players who met with the media on Tuesday in advance of Saturday’s game... Full Story

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