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Spadaro: DeVonta Smith is built for the moment

Dave Spadaro On the Inside 1920

This is the moment, DeVonta Smith says, that he craves. He played in two state championship games in high school, won two National Championships at Alabama, and now he's ready for the biggest stage of his life, the Super Bowl.

He isn't fazed a bit.

"I've been playing in these games my whole life," Smith said, relaxed with every word. "For me, it's like, I'm built for this. I've been here plenty of times. This is what I grew up in."

Well, yes, but, um, no. He hasn't been in this before. Not the Super Bowl, not until now.

"It's just a natural thing," he insists. "It's just another game."

Smith, we would all agree, is a stone-cold killer on the football field. He doesn't show a lot of emotion, he doesn't talk trash. Smith has this incredible steely focus that he combines with everything you want in a wide receiver: Toughness, great route-running skills, precision in his craft, and all-out production. But this is the Super Bowl and you wonder if maybe there will be just a teeny-weeny moment during which Smith will feel the magnitude of the stage.

"Honestly, there's nothing in my mind when I'm playing. I've got a clear head. I just envision myself making plays," he said. "That's really all it is."

A young man like Smith, there is no doubt, right, that he's dreamt of this opportunity his whole life – going out there, being a star in front of a worldwide audience, just like he did it for Alabama in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game when he caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of Alabama's 52-24 win over Ohio State.

"No, not at all," Smith said, smiling.

No Super Bowl dreaming?

"For me, it was playing in the NBA Finals," he said.

A big smile. Smith hasn't flinched since he was the team's first-round draft pick in 2021, setting a franchise record for rookies with 916 yards to go along with 64 receptions and five touchdowns and then, this season, Smith cranked it up to star level: 95 receptions (an Eagles single-season record for wide receivers), 1,196 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Smith recorded five games of 100-plus yards, including three in a row in December when the grind of a long season can slow some players.

Not Smith. He's a wiry 170-pounder who takes meticulous care of his body and who just gets stronger and faster and better and more determined to make plays. That's what he's about – making plays.

He isn't listening to the outside world as the Super Bowl hype machine prepares to kick into an obscene gear. Heck, he isn't listening to his family, who he says, "I've tuned them out. They know me. They don't bother me. They know I kind of stay in my own way, focus on the main thing. So, they don't bother me. They know I'm not going to listen."

His play will do all the talking and that's what we've come to expect from Smith, who teams with A.J. Brown to form a devastating 1-2 wide receiver combination that certainly will challenge the Kansas City defensive secondary. Both Brown and Smith have complemented each other all season – Brown recorded 88 receptions, 1,496 yards, and 11 touchdowns in the regular season – and that hasn't changed in the playoffs.

And it won't change in the Super Bowl.

"We're going out there to do whatever it takes to win the game," Smith said. "It's not about putting up numbers. We're one win away. We're on a mission."

He's only in his second NFL season, but Smith has that rare resolve and focus and that's part of what makes him great. And make no doubt about it, he's great. He's ready to treat the Super Bowl and all the lights and all the attention like every other week. He's watched Kansas City and he will "dive into it more" later in the week, but he also won't go above and beyond anything he's done all season. Smith wants to keep it the same.

"If I go too deep, I'll get bored," he said. "It's a football game, like every other football game. I'll be ready, you know that. I love preparing. But all that other stuff – the media and all the attention – I ain't for it. Let's just play football."

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