Smith grilled at Alabama's pro day
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Andre Smith set about trying to repair his reputation the same place he worked to build it: on Alabama's practice field.
"I was like, 'Wow, there's a lot of teams represented here,'" the Outland Trophy winner said.
And they all had similar questions for Smith in post-workout interviews. Namely, why did he bolt the combine on the day offensive linemen were supposed to participate in drills, a decision that has drawn criticism and raised speculation about the resulting damage to the draft stock of a player once projected as a possible No. 1 overall pick.
"I just made a bad decision in leaving the combine," Smith said. "If I had it to do all over again, I would handle it differently. I just made a bad decision in leaving, but I think I made a great football decision to get back and start working out with my trainer."
Smith, who is skipping his senior season, was also suspended from the Sugar Bowl for violating unspecified team rules. The NFL job hunt didn't start much better than his college career ended for a player who started at left tackle from the opener of his freshman season.
Smith has noticeably slimmed down, weighing in at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, which he called his lightest weight in three years.
He sprinted shirtless through a gauntlet of stopwatch-bearing NFL officials and was clocked in drills along with several former Tide teammates. Smith was clocked at 5.28 and 5.33 in the 40, managed a 25-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times, according to NFL.com. Smith declined to give his numbers.
"So many unknown questions because he didn't do things at the combine," said Pat Flaherty, offensive line coach for the New York Giants. "That's why we're here today, because we didn't get to see him at the combine.
"All he can do and control right now is go forward. I met with him today and that's what I told him. I said he has to be ready for each and every club that wants to work him out, to take it seriously. It's a job interview. He has to do the best he can."
Smith admitted he was nervous about the scrutiny Wednesday. He repeatedly said he has leaned on his faith to weather the recent criticism.
"It was difficult at the beginning, but I also have to realize I have a God who's favored me throughout my career, so I just lean on God," he said. "No one can take away what God has for me. That's how I think about everything."
Smith has been working out in Atlanta, pulling two-hour conditioning sessions with Olympic gold medalist Chryste Gaines three days a week and working on footwork and position skills with former NFL tackle Tony Jones.
He's also trying to fix a reputation that has taken a hit for abruptly leaving the combine.
"I'll take a lot of the blame for it," said Alvin Keels, Smith's agent. "I'm the one who does this year in and year out and this is his first time."
Keels said the criticism caught Smith off guard.
"Any time the reaction is that harsh, athletes are somewhat surprised," he said. "Oftentimes, when you're a star athlete, there's just so much good that's written about you.
"They build you up. And when you make a mistake, they don't realize how much a mistake is blown up as well. It was a learning experience, if nothing more. He's definitely learned from it and is ready to move forward and make sure stuff like that doesn't happen again."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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