Wendell Smallwood didn't waste much time high-tailing it to the NovaCare Complex and owning up to some past mistakes. A fifth-round draft pick of the Eagles on Saturday, the Wilmington, Delaware native stood in front of the cameras a couple of hours later and discussed a series of Tweets and an arrest from his high school days.
"There has been a bunch of stuff going on about when I was arrested," said Smallwood, who in 2014 was arrested and charged with witness intimidation for a murder that happened two years earlier, when Smallwood was in high school. The charges were dropped within a month by the Delaware District Attorney's Office. "I was just in a wrong situation. I was young, hanging out with the wrong people. I was never around whatever happened. I wasn't involved. There was no evidence, no witness against me and it came out to be true and all the stuff was cleared. I just learned from the situation and continue to move forward and be a better man."
Smallwood also apologized for a series of unsavory Tweets he sent from his Twitter account in his high school years. He made his account inactive on Saturday and called the Tweets "embarrassing. I don't believe anything I said. I've definitely grown. I've definitely learned from it."
The lesson here is that past mistakes can haunt, and social media is a dangerous place to be. Smallwood was nothing less than a stellar young man in his three outstanding seasons at West Virginia, but on the day he was drafted, one that is a moment to remember, he answered – and owned up for – mistakes made when he was in high school.
Get to know the newest Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood...
Smallwood nailed it, stood tall, and provided a platform for everyone who has a presence in social media or who might be tempted to hang with the wrong crowd.
"Something so little, like sending a Tweet out, has a big hold on you and influences the young guys who don't know what's going on or look up to you, maybe," Smallwood said. "I definitely don't condone that. I'm definitely sorry about that. For anyone who had to read that, and not just kids, grown people, I definitely think I can turn it into a positive with showing the people the real person I am, the real man I am today."
Smallwood did a great job with his explanation, and the focus turns now to his place on the roster and what's ahead. An Eagles fan growing up, Smallwood became close with running backs coach Duce Staley during the pre-draft courtship and now has a chance to learn from a player he watched in Eagles midnight green.
Staley adds Smallwood to the running backs room that includes Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Kevin Monangai and Ross Scheuerman.
"He's a special talent. He can play all three downs, he's tough between the tackles. He runs hard, good leg drive and that's something you look for in a running back," Staley said. "Special talent. I met him for the first time at the Combine. He's one of those kids who is down to earth. He speaks a lot about his family and is very involved with them. I'm very happy that we got him and we move forward with everything that has gone on his life. I can't say anything but positives about him. I'm glad we got him.
"I'm smiling about this one."
Smallwood lit it up at West Virginia and last season he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns in 13 games. In three seasons there, he ran for 2,462 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. He also added another 68 receptions, an important element in the West Coast offense, where the Eagles demand that the backs are well-rounded.
A powerful, explosive running back in college, Smallwood hopes his game translates to the NFL level.
"I feel like the things I can bring to the table to help the team get better doing whatever they need me to do as far as catching the ball, running the ball, blocking, tackling, anything they need me to do," Smallwood said. "I feel like I'm definitely going to be a complement to the Eagles."
We're reminded again about the power of social media, something that was certainly a major theme in the first round of the NFL Draft when Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, projected to be a top draft pick, fell to No. 13 overall after a Twitter image of him appeared 13 minutes before the draft began. That stuff lives forever and can inflict damage for years after the fact.
In the case of Wendell (pronounced wen-DELL) Smallwood, the combination of the social missteps and the brush with the law pushed Wendell into a corner. He portrayed himself in a hostile situation to be mature and professional, a great first step to a local kid who has a world of football talent.
"I can only go from here," Smallwood said, "and that's what I'm going to do for the rest of my NFL career."