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DeVonta Smith explains where his toughness comes from originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
If you think DeVonta Smith is some sort of finesse receiver who doesn’t like contact, you just don’t know this kid yet.
He may weigh only 166 pounds, but how many Heisman Trophy-winning wide receivers are volunteering to go out and run down the field as a gunner on kickoffs and punts?
This one did.
“It’s fun, actually,” Smith said. “That’s a chance for me to go make a tackle and be able to hit somebody. That was just a chance for me to just tee off on somebody and I love doing it.”
Wide receivers can’t hit corners, but they get hit all the time. Playing gunner at times at Alabama gave Smith a chance to show his physicality against some of the same cornerbacks who were getting shots on him when he was on offense.
“They’re able to hit us, but we can’t hit them,” he said. “So I’m going to find a way around it.”
Smith spoke on this week’s Takeoff podcast with John Clark, which dropped on Monday.
A good part of the conversation revolved around Smith’s toughness, which surprises a lot of people who get wrapped up only in his weight.
“Some people just look at my size and they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s not strong,’ but there’s a difference between weight-room strong and football-strong and I believe I’m just football strong,” Smith said. “When I go out there on the field, you’re not going to just manhandle me. I just have football strength.”
Smith said he knew the first time he got hit playing football he had the toughness to play the game.
“I would say my freshman year in high school, that was my first time actually getting hit,” he said. “Like I went across the middle and dude just flat-lined me and I mean I just popped up. That’s when I just realized, I’m going to be real with you, I haven’t taken a hit that was harder than that since then, since my freshman year of high school. Nobody’s ever hit me that hard since. I knew right then, there’s no way nobody will ever hit me that hard again.”
Smith, the Eagles’ 1st-round pick, may be just 166 pounds, but he never missed a game in college and was good as any receiver in the country beating press coverage, something that takes a lot of strength - especially against the elite SEC cornerbacks.
And he knows how to take a hit. You never see him drop a pass.
“I was always told that you’re going to get hit catching it or not so you might as well catch it,” he said.
Where does this mentality come from? Smith loved hoops growing up – he remains a huge NBA fan - and as kid ran full-court at a park near his home against much older, bigger, stronger players.
“I just always had that dog in me just to never back down from anybody,” he said. “And being with them and how they roughed me up made me who I am today.”
Smith’s size, toughness and demeanor have brought on the inevitable comparisons with Allen Iverson, who heard he was too small all the way to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Smith loves the comparison.
“I’ve heard people tell me I remind them of him,” he said. “Just because of the dog that I have, just because you’re under-sized, but no matter what, you’re not going to back down to anybody.”
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