Maryland WR Torrey Smith on going pro: “Playing in the NFL was never really a goal of mine”

January 06, 2011 | Ryan Chell

Torrey Smith

University of Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith announced his decision to go pro following Maryland’s 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl, and wihile his decision to take his skills to the NFL was kind of pushed under the rug because of the coaching change at Maryland, Smith said it doesn’t bother him and he is ready to move on to the next challenge in his football career.

Plus, Smith left behind a pretty good resume playing football not just at Maryland but in the ACC as a whole.

Smith-a three-time first or second-team All-ACC selection-joined Thyrl Nelson of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” Wednesday to discuss his path to the NFL, leaving Maryland after this his junior year.

Smith-who initally in his Terp career solely made his impact as kick returner-put together two great seasons as wideout for Ralph Friedgen’s offense. He excelled this year in Maryland’s 8-4 season at receiver, grabbing 67 passes for 1,055 yards and a school-record 12 TDs.

He increased his production from his 2009 season, when he grabbed 61 balls for 824 yards and five scores. He also had 51 returns for 1,309 yards( a record that he not only set before but then broke) and two scores, and all together his all-purpose yards were  second in the conference only to Clemson’s C.J. Spiller.

Leading the Terps in catches and receiving yards, his total all-purpose yards had him sixth-best in the nation in that category in 2009.

He developed quite a rapport with  quarterback Danny O’Brien in 2010, and that was most notable in Maryland’s 38-31 victory over N.C. State, where he had 14 catches for 224 yards receiving and a school-record four TDs.

That game could be described as the game that put Smith on the map and had the NFL scouts salavating. Some opposing coaches and scouts have said that Smith could be better than his former teammate, Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was drafed seventh-overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2009 NFL Draft.

He received enough support after the N.C. State victory and Maryland’s bowl game that his NFL Draft status was in good shape, so Smith jumped the gun and made the decision to go pro, signing with super agent Drew Rosenhaus.

“Anything could change,” Smith noted. “But if it was bad, trust me, I’d be back at College Park.”

Smith did say though that playing in the NFL was never a reasonable goal or expectation for him when he first suited up for the Terps. When he came to Maryland, he was there to get his education and football was to to be a supplement to he getting a degree.

“To be honest, playing in the NFL was never really a goal of mine,” he said to Nelson. “When I played as a young kid playing football and basketball in my front yard, you think about it, but it really wasn’t anything I was focused on.”

“And the scholarship to get my degree was the biggest thing, but it really wasn’t till this spring that Coach Friedgen said I had a great chance to play at the next level, and that gave me the confidence.”

It was at that point that his determination took over this season on the football field.

“I’m a person who likes to set goals and I like to reach them. And they told me I had a great shot if I worked hard.”

He also set records that will be hard for others to break down the road for future ACC and Maryland recruits.

He finished his Maryland career as their all-purpose yardage leader, surpassing the 4,960 yard mark set by running back LaMont Jordan. His four TDs in the NC State game were a school record, as were his 12 touchdowns this season. He is also only the second Maryland wide receiver to surpass the 1,000 yard mark in a season.

He also surpassed North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate as the conference’s all-time return yardage leader.

And he has had more support behind him than the current Maryland coaching staff.

Former Terps in the NFL right now-guys like Vernon Davis(49ers), Darrius Heyward-Bey(Raiders), and Shawne Merriman(Bills) have been mentoring Smith as well, and Smith said that was the great thing about the football program at College Park. It’s a community that stretches far beyond the Baltimore-Washington area.

“Everyone kind of sticks together around College Park,” Smith explained. “And it gets even better when you’re outside of it.”

So with his decision, many Maryland fans are wondering, especially with the chance that there may not be NFL football next year, when is the next time we’ll see Torrey Smith catching passes on the football field?

“Being that I’m a junior, the next time you guys will see me is at the Combine, because underclassmen can’t go to any of the all-star games,” Smith admitted. “So right now, I’m going to be down here in Miami preparing for the Combine.”

Sometimes leaving as an underclassmen to the NFL can sometimes be seen as selfish and in a negative light in some fans’ eyes, but Maryland fans should respect his decision ultimately based on the fact that he put together three good years at the varsity level for the Terps, he got his diploma, and he said he will still be around supporting Randy Edsall’s Maryland team.

“I’ve definitely been following what’s been going on with the program,” Smith replied. “Just because I’m gone, I’m still a Terp. And those boys look up to me. I love them to death, so definitely I like to know what’s going on.”

And he expects the same out of Randy Edsall as he did with his coach, Ralph Friedgen.

“Everyone’s supportive of the new coach. They all seem to like him. All I know is he inherited a good team and they should expect great things from the Terps next year.”

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