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Kyle Smith Reflects On How His Father, A.J. Smith, Influenced His Career


Kyle Smith was getting ready to start his first day as an intern for the Washington Redskins in 2010 when his father, A.J. Smith, gave him a piece of advice that he still remembers to this day.

"I got your foot in the door, but what you do from here is on you."

The way Smith sees it, he had an easy road to getting his first NFL job. While his father had to work his way from being a high school gym teacher to get his first unpaid internship, A.J. Smith made a call to get him the internship that eventually led to him being the Redskins’ Vice President of Player Personnel.

Smith heeded his father's words, and 10 years later became one of the most important people in the Redskins organization. That hasn't changed how much he relies on his father for advice and guidance.

"Everything I've done, philosophy-wise, he trained me. He raised me," Smith said Tuesday at the NFL Combine. "He's been through a lot of experiences, and in my position now, I'll rely on him heavily."

Smith said his father had to take "a hard road" to get his first job in the NFL. In addition to coaching and playing in the now-defunct Eastern Football League, A.J. Smith worked as a gym teacher for 15 years in Rhode Island. He eventually got an internship with the New England Patriots and would drive Foxborough Stadium in Massachusetts to do unpaid intern work.

That led to his first job as a scout with the New York Giants in 1977. Over the course of his 38-year career, A.J. Smith worked with eight teams across two leagues (he was a scout for the Chicago Blitz and Pittsburgh Maulers from 1983-84) and held six positions. He was the San Diego Chargers' general manager from 2003-12.

His longest tenure was 14 seasons with the Buffalo Bills, and in that time the team won four AFC Championships. He was most recently with the Redskins as a senior executive from 2013-15.

"I rely heavily on every scenario he's been through, because he's held just about every title there is -- area scout, pro scout, college director, pro director, assistant G.M.," Smith said.

A.J. Smith never had the exact position his son currently holds, but the responsibilities are essentially the same as those he had throughout his career. With the Chargers, A.J. Smith drafted several players, such as running back Darren Sproles, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Eric Weddle, who went on to have successful careers.

He also helped orchestrate the 2004 trade that No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning to the Giants in exchange for Philip Rivers, who the Giants selected with the fourth pick. The trade worked out for both teams, as Manning went on to win two Super Bowls while Rivers has been to eight Pro Bowls.

Smith finds himself in a similar situation as his father in the first offseason of his new position. The Redskins hold the No. 2 overall pick, and he has the chance to alter the franchise in a similar fashion that A.J. Smith did with the Chargers.

For Smith, it helps to have someone who understands the gravity of that decision. Smith said his father has helped him "big time" in his career, and that won't change in his new role. The two talk everyday, but the conversations always find their way back to football.

"Every once in a while he'll ask me, 'Who are you dating? What's her name? What's she look like? OK, great. Tell me about that Alabama prospect,'" Smith said. "That's kind of our relationship."

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