SMITH: It's just a dream come true. Everything that I wanted to happen fell in place yesterday when my name got called. I was very happy and my family was very happy. So I'm just happy to be an Eagle.
You were sitting at the sports bar in Louisville, and when your phone rings, were you surprised? Did you think it was about getting drafted at that point?
SMITH: Going into it, I had an idea of when I was going to be drafted. It was a surprise to me when they called me. I was very happy when they called me and told me that they were going to be drafting me. I just want to be a part of something special, and I know they have something special in this organization, and I just want to be a part of it.
Can you tell us how you went from quarterback to outside linebacker?
SMITH: When I got to Louisville, I played quarterback. There were two seniors in front of me. I wasn't getting a lot of reps. I was throwing some balls in the dirt. [Louisville head coach Charlie] Strong came up to me and asked if I wanted to play on his defense? I told him I'll do whatever it takes to get on the field. We had a two a day that day, so the second practice he let me play defense. I was playing SAM linebacker then, so the rest is history. I stayed on the defensive side of the ball. Then going into the spring, we had a lot of defensive ends hurt going into the spring. So they moved me to defensive end. So I was playing [the] five-technique my sophomore year, and it just kept moving up the years, like my junior year and senior year. Then they started moving me around and standing me up a lot more when I got more comfortable with the defense.
Had you ever played defense before that?
SMITH: No, I hadn't played defense since Pop Warner. I always played quarterback. Quarterback has always been my thing, but I'm so happy that I play outside linebacker. Now I have the opportunity to rush the passer and get to the quarterback.
Do you feel you have the mentality to play defense?
SMITH: Not at first. Not at first. When I came over to the outside linebacker position, I didn't have that mentality. It took me maybe a year and a half to get it, because I still had the quarterback sense of humor. The way I did things, it just wasn't right for the defense. But my coaches stayed with me the whole time. They believed in me. Once I got that killer instinct, that's when I started playing really well.
You must have come there thinking you were going to be quarterback. Then you thought okay, I threw some balls in the dirt and now I'm going to be a defensive player. Did that go easily or were you resistant to it?
SMITH: It did go easily to me. I didn't like how I was playing quarterback at the time. I didn't like how nothing that I was doing was going right. Maybe it was time for me to do a changeup anyway. Coach [Strong] came to me at the right time, and I just I was just very, very happy that I could contribute to the team in a different way than I was, because I was just sitting on the sideline just watching the quarterbacks throw the ball. So him putting me on defense helped me out a lot and made me become a better person actually too.
Is there anything about the experience that helps you?
SMITH: Yeah, it helps me a lot. Playing quarterback, I kind of know what the tendencies are of the quarterbacks. I know the offensive tackles, offensive guards, centers, slide protections, everything that goes into an offense, I pretty much know it all. So I used to help defensive linemen, linebackers out, sometimes the safeties with checks and reads and stuff because it comes easy to me.
In the process, did Strong talk about moving positions or was it only in that first day of camp?
SMITH: He actually said to the media. Well, he never told me, but he said to the media, they're going to try me out at quarterback. If that doesn't fit, they're going to put me at a position that he thinks fits me best. So that's what happened.
What did you have to do from a physical perspective? How much weight did you have to put on? What did you feel like you needed to get stronger when you made that switch?
SMITH: When we talked about getting stronger, I needed to get my legs stronger. My legs weren't as strong as they were coming into it. I had to gain a lot of weight. I was 217 when I walked in the building. I'm weighing 255 now. The highest I've ever been was 265. I was playing a five-technique then, but they then moved me to the weakside end, and let me stand up a little bit more. That's when I dropped down in weight a little bit. So my playing weight would be 250, 255 around that range.
When you’re hearing that you’re projected to go in the second or third round, what did you think of that discussion, and what do you think now?
SMITH: When people were saying second and third round, I just had a good feeling that I might, you know, go in the first. God willing, I could go in the first. I never doubted it. I was just happy that they gave me a call and I'm playing for this organization. It wasn't really a surprise to me because I know how good I can be, and I know that some team would want to take a chance on me, and I just want to be part of something special.
Did you come to Louisville with QB Teddy Bridgewater?
SMITH: He was a year after me. I came in right before Teddy. Teddy came in the spring after my freshman year.
How would you compare yourselves as a quarterback?
SMITH: Oh, well, that's a whole different story. He's a great quarterback. If I would have stayed at quarterback, I probably would have been behind him. That's just how I feel because he's a great individual, and I know he will do well with the Minnesota Vikings.
How do you develop a killer instinct? What went into that process?
SMITH: I think in the offseason when we did stuff like mat drills and we're wrestling with each other and getting at each other and being competitive, that's where I built it at. I brought it to the football field. Having the killer instinct you have to have, just everything that you do has to be very violent. That's what my coach preached all the time. Once I got that violentness about myself, then I started being a very, very violent player and started being successful.
At what point during your time at Louisville did becoming a draft pick seem like a possibility to you?
SMITH: After my junior year, after the Sugar Bowl, my coach talked about it. We started talking about maybe the insurance that I could get for next year just in case I got hurt and stuff like that. That's when it started coming about. But to be honest, my whole senior year, I never even tried to look at the NFL. I never tried to even think about it, because I wanted to focus on my senior season. I wanted to help my guys win, and I just wanted to be a team player. I felt like if I would have thought about the NFL, then that would have been kind of disowning them and not giving them my all.
When did you first show up on a mock draft that you can remember?
SMITH: Maybe my senior season. And they had me third to fifth round. I just wanted to come in and prove to people that I could play and I really want to get under these vets and learn some great things from them.
There is a portion of Eagles fans who because you weren't projected to go where you went, they were disappointed. What would you say to that coming in at 26 where maybe some fans thought you were a second round pick or third round pick. What message would you have for them?
SMITH: I would tell them just sit back and relax. I feel like I can be a great player. Especially under the vets that we have this year. We have great outside linebackers here, and I want to be able to learn under them. So I can come in and contribute to the team; even though I wasn't projected that high. It's not all about what they project. It's about what the coaches and [general managers] think of you. So I'll try not to let anybody down, but I just want to come in, work hard, be successful and just help this team win.
Are there players that you idolized?
SMITH: I kind of looked at [Steelers LB] Jarvis Jones. I grew up with Jarvis. We played basketball at AAU with each other. When I moved to that position, I always asked him stuff about how to rush the passer and how to get to the quarterback. So that would be one guy. [DE] Osi [Umenyiora] from the Falcons, I kind of looked up to him, too. Those are great pass rushers, and he can drop into coverage. I just look at those guys and try to pattern my game after those guys.
The fact that you've been playing quarterback, did you get a sense that the Eagles valued that aspect of your background? Did you get any sense that the other teams valued that part of your background?
SMITH: I think so. I think me playing quarterback could have played a big factor in making that pick. I think I'm a smart football player when it comes to being on the defensive side of the ball. Just from being on the offense. Because being on the offensive side of the ball, you have to know a lot. Being a quarterback, you have to know a lot. You have to know checks, you have to know the defense. You have to know what's going on in the ballgame. That's why [Vikings QB] Teddy [Bridgewater] is so good. So that's what helped me a lot playing defense because I felt like it was more it would slow it down and I could really help my teammates out and we could get the win.
Do you think that's going to continue?
SMITH: Yeah, I think so. I think when they brought me in, I think Louisville and the Eagles, we run some of the similar stuff on defense. So I think they might use me in the same way.
The Eagles have a “jack” and “predator” in their defensive scheme at linebacker. Did they talk about which one they see you doing?
SMITH: They talked to me about both when I came up here on a visit. I could be either one. I want to be flexible and be able to do anything. You have to know the whole defense. So I could be either one.
What is the strength of your game and what would you like to improve upon?
SMITH: I feel like the number one strength of my game is the pass rush. However, what I want to improve on the most is just setting a firmer edge on the run game. Because you have to be able to get through first and second down before you can rush the passer. So I want to be that player that can be an every down player that can help the team win, and just try to get my pass rush better, and try to get my hands on better.
Have you met any of the Eagles players yet?
SMITH: No, I haven't met any players yet. I can't wait to meet them though.
That Sugar Bowl performance, what do you think that did for you?
SMITH: I'm not sure. I really don't know what it did for my career. After that, I was just playing the game and just playing with a lot of aggression and a lot of enthusiasm. I was just having fun out there playing with my teammates. Like I said before, the NFL didn't really cross my mind until afterwards, after my senior year. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want anybody to talk to me about the NFL. So I think me being that kind of player helped me focus.
How did you change your mentality of moving from the offensive side to the defensive side of the ball?
SMITH: Well, just my coaches. Them talking to me, being on the football field. Them getting on my butt. Just if I'm doing something, they tell me. I respond to coaching really well. So when they tell me to do something, it doesn't take me that long to respond back and do it. So just them talking to me and telling me what I have to do in order to be a good player, that's what I did.
How long do you think it will take before you're making an immediate impact?
SMITH: I'm not sure how long it will take. I just know that I'm going to come in, I'm going to work hard, and the vets that are over me, I just want to come in and learn under them. I think that once I learn from them and am able to play in the game, that's when my game will probably be up, because being around those guys will help me a lot.