Since signing with the Redskins after going unselected in the 2017 NFL Draft, safety Fish Smithson has worked to improve his skills and impress coaches this preseason.
For the Washington Redskins' rookies, as the start of the regular season approaches, draft day seems to fade into the past. While some college players traveled a clear route to the NFL, others, like college free agent Fish Smithson, experienced disappointment and uncertainty throughout the draft process. Though Smithson acknowledges a period of temporary defeat, he is now motivated by past setbacks and is determined to prove his worth in Washington.
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"I'd be lying to you if I told you that I wasn't hurt and devastated by [not being drafted], because I was," Smithson told Redskins.com. "Everybody wants to get drafted, so it was tough not getting drafted, but I had to move past it and now I'm just happy that the Redskins gave me an opportunity. I really wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Now I'm just trying to make the most out of it."
Looking to stand out in Washington at the safety position, the Kansas product plans to continue his success from college play to the next level. He recorded 263 tackles in three seasons with the Jayhawks, along with 17 passes defensed and six interceptions. As a junior in 2015, Smithson led the nation in solo tackles (111), and recorded a team-high 93 tackles the following season.
From refining his skills, to studying the Redskins playbook, to observing the behavior and conduct of the veteran pros, Smithson has been working on improving as a player in all aspects of the game. After a summer of acclamation, the rookie feels that preseason practices have produced positive results.
"It's been smooth," he said of preseason so far. "It was good that I got a lot of reps at OTAs, getting there, learning the playbook. I came in as a free safety, so I'm learning free safety, and also learning some strong safety. So that's why I feel like the best part is that I can do both."
The 5-foot-11, 196-pounder has been able to learn about his position and expand his abilities under the direction of defensive backs coach Torrian Gray and assistant defensive backs coach James Rowe. With over 20 years of coaching experience between the two men, Smithson believes that these advisers have aided his advancement.
"[Coach Gray] and our other assistant Coach Rowe, those two, they just work hand-in-hand. You know Coach Gray, his resume speaks for itself, but he's just really hands-on and he tells you when you mess up and also when you make great plays, so it's just been good."
The safety hopes to show his skills at the Redskins' first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. A Baltimore native, Smithson will be supported in the city by family and friends.
"Man, I'm so excited. I can't wait," he said of the preseason game. "This is something that [the rookies have] all been looking forward to since draft day. Of course we have to go through the whole draft process and all of that, but at the end of the day, we just want to play football. We want to go out there and hit people, go out there and make plays, so I'm excited. I'm from the Baltimore area, so I'm just going to be happy to go out there in front of my family, hopefully make some plays."