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NFL Draft

Brandon Smith: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • April 9, 2021
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Every year, there are a handful of prospects who force NFL decision-makers to do a deeper dive into their college film after blowing up the testing circuit. Iowa wide receiver Brandon Smith is one of those players in the 2021 draft class.

Smith has scouts and analysts revisiting the tape after he put up a 44-inch vertical and 135-inch broad jump at the House of Athlete Combine.

Smith recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his worldly testing numbers, what he loves most about playing wide receiver, and his beloved… pet snake, better known as Rufus.

JM: The draft is quickly approaching. You’ve had a lot of time to train and prepare for this moment. What have the last few months been like for you?

BS: I’ve really just been taking things day by day. It can be a lot to think about. You can’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. I’m controlling the things that I can control. I’m ready to take this next step.

JM: You’ve also had a lot of time to reflect on your career at Iowa. How do you look back on that?

BS: Playing at Iowa taught me a lot. Coming from the south, arriving at Iowa for the first time came with a pretty big culture shock. I definitely had to get used to the weather (laughs). It was a new environment for me. I was on my own for the first time in my life. I had to adapt. I had to learn how to manage my time. It definitely taught me a lot. Being a part of that football team was great for me. We held one another accountable. It’s a terrific program.

JM: You had a terrific performance at the House of Athlete Combine. You recorded a 44-inch vertical and a 135-inch broad jump. You ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, which is a great time for your size. You turned a lot of heads out there. What was that experience like?

BS: It was such a great feeling. The House of Athlete provided me with a wonderful opportunity. I just tried to make the most of it. To see all of the hard work I’ve been putting in pay off in that way, it was a great moment for me. I put all of my energy into that day and it was easy to see and track my improvements. I spent a long time preparing for that day. It was very exciting for me.

JM: When I turn the tape on, I see a receiver that wins in contested situations more often than not. You turn some of those 50-50 balls into 75-25 in your favor. How did you develop that aspect of your game?

BS: I understand how to use my size and athletic ability to my advantage. When I was a kid, we would just throw the ball up around a large group of people (laughs). We had to go up and get it. I loved doing that as a kid. I can see how it paid off. I carried those traits over with me to high school and college.

JM: Do you have a favorite route to run?

BS: I really like running a post corner route. It’s tough to say because I really just enjoy catching the ball over the top of a defensive back (laughs). There’s nothing better than running past a DB and getting hit in stride.

JM: You have terrific size at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. Who are some of the receivers that you admired growing up? I’m curious if you tried to watch receivers that have a similar frame to yours. Do you model your game after anyone in particular?

BS: I grew up admiring Calvin Johnson. I was just graduating middle school and going into high school when he was dominating the league with the Lions. He was a lot bigger than I am but he was a dog. The way that he dominated, it was just a lot of fun to watch. Julio Jones is another one. He plays the same way. He’s just a little smaller than Calvin Johnson was, but he’s still a big receiver. He moves so well for his size.

JM: Those are two great players to study and model your game after. When I was preparing for this interview, I received a picture in my email of you with a very large snake. I didn’t expect that. I’m told that the snake’s name is Rufus. What’s that all about?

BS: (laughs hysterically). I never really liked snakes growing up. This one time, I was cutting the grass in middle school. A snake ran across the grass and I jumped off the lawnmower. I ran in the other direction. I never liked snakes (laughs).

During my freshman year of college, one of my friends had a ball python named Pebbles. He was from Florida so he liked that kind of stuff (laughs). He introduced me to Pebbles. I was like okay, these things are cool. They’re not so bad (laughs). I got used to her.

I bought Rufus shortly thereafter. It was really just an impulse buy (laughs). I really got into snakes at that moment. I already had a name for him in my head. As soon as I was at the pet store, I knew his name was Rufus. I got the name from a book we were reading in class at the time. The name of the book was Kindred. 

JM: He just looked like a Rufus to you?

BS: Yeah, he just looked like a Rufus (laughs). I got him and it was the coolest thing ever. The rest is history. I got him when he was a baby. He’s gotten a lot bigger since then. I still have him today.

JM: This is crazy. I love it. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with teams virtually. What was that process like?

BS: I’ve had discussions with roughly 14 teams. That’s where we’re at right now. It’s been going well. They’re asking the general questions. They wanna know about my family and whatnot. We’re talking about my background. We’ve talked about some X’s and O’s as well. I know the process is a lot different from a regular draft year. The pandemic has made its impact on the process. It’s still been a great experience though.

JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impact is Brandon Smith going to make at the next level?

BS: A team is going to get an incredibly competitive player when they draft me. I’m a dog on the field. I’m trying to become a dominant force at the next level.

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