365 Sports Network currently features dozens and dozens of interviews with a mixture of athletes and we will continue to publish more and more interviews as time goes on. If you are interested in being interviewed and if you are an athlete either in the college or professional ranks please email me at JustinKish@365SportsNetwork.com and we will communicate for a possible interview.
Justin David Kish: Thank you so much for your time Eric. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Eric Smith: First off, thank you once again Justin! Well for starters, I am an Atlanta native born & raised. I am the product of a single parent household, and I am the eldest of 4 children. And, I’ve played the sport of football since the age of 5.
Justin David Kish: During your college career you played for the Virginia Cavaliers. Tell us about your time spent with the Cavaliers?
Eric Smith: During my college career at Virginia I played Right Tackle, and just a smidge of left tackle. Once I came into the program I honestly didn’t expect anything short of being red-shirted. But after a few practices in camp it was apparent to coaches that I would possibly be on the active roster as a second string guy. After the 4th game of my freshman year is when I made the full transition from a previous 3 star high school player to starting for a division 1 university. It has remained just that ever since then. A career definitely filled with ups and downs, but most definitely worth it.
Justin David Kish: During your career at Virginia you played under offensive line coach Garrett Tujague. How has coach Tujague and the rest of the Cavaliers coaching staff improved you as a player?
Eric Smith: Well, I was only able to play under Garrett Tujague for one season due to a complete coaching roster change. But once he and the rest of the staff came into our lives it was certainly a change for the better of the culture. As a player I’ve improved on my leadership skills, ability to prepare better for my opponents throughout the week, take better precautions for my health (physically and mentally), and taught me how to reach new heights as a player.
Justin David Kish: Virginia plays in the ACC Conference. You play teams like Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Miami on a yearly basis. What is one game that really took you to your limits and brought out the best in you?
Eric Smith: I’d say that games when other teams would present defensive edge guys who would acquire a lot of attention for stats. So in this case, I would have to go with either our Louisville game or PITT.
Justin David Kish: Being an offensive lineman you have faced some of the nations best defensive talent. What is one player that gave you a challenge and how did you fare?
Eric Smith: One player that I give kudos to is Ejuan Price from PITT. He was a dynamic player, but I held my own against him. Definitely was a player that I had to use a bit more of my natural athletic virtues on.
Justin David Kish: During your time at Virginia you created so many great memories. What is one memory that stands out from the rest?
Eric Smith: Well it’s no secret that we haven’t experienced the best collegiate football record at Virginia. But one of my most fond memories was my sophomore year when we beat Louisville on our home turf.
Justin David Kish: What does it mean to be a Virginia Cavalier?
Eric Smith: What it means to be a Virginia Cavalier is to take the challenge to take on a culture that so many outsiders consider “preppy” or “prestigious” and prove to them that we can do work on the field with the best of them. It’s a challenge to force everyone against us wrong. At least that’s what it has been in my 4-year career.
Justin David Kish: You are now headed onto the 2017 NFL Draft. How are you currently preparing for the draft and who are you working with?
Eric Smith: I am currently working with our trainer here at Virginia, Kevin Heiberger. He’s previously worked at IMG sports academy and is an absolute technique freak when it comes to running and motion mechanics. So hopefully I’m able to impress some people as a big man when it comes to the NFL combine/ Pro-Day.
Justin David Kish: When you look at the other offensive lineman heading into the draft how do you standout from the rest?
Eric Smith: Well after participating in the Senior Reeses Bowl game, I can attest that are some pretty talented guys coming out this year, but I feels as though my versatility, agility, and will to learn anything about my position (whatever it may be at the next level) will allow me to set myself apart even more. All in all I’m confident in what I can do when awarded with an opportunity.
Justin David Kish: During your time at Virginia you played alongside quarterback and 2017 NFL Draft prospect Matt Johns. What is your relationship like with Matt and are you guys working together during the draft process?
Eric Smith: Matt Johns and I are pretty good friends. He’ll always be my brother, and I admire him for his pure fight and will to play this game. He too is working here at Virginia, and is improving daily.
Justin David Kish: What is one aspect of your game do you consider to be your biggest strength?
Eric Smith: One of my biggest strengths of my game would be pass protection due to my quick feet. I’m able to adjust and change direction quickly according to the task at hand.
Justin David Kish: What is one area of your game you are continuing to improve on?
Eric Smith: Truth be told, I want to work on every part of my game. But, if I had to pinpoint one specific part it would be my finishing on run blocking. I’m usually so eager to get to the second level or beyond that I’ve shown the tendencies to leave my defender or block too fast.
Justin David Kish: What was your chemistry like with your team at Virginia?
Eric Smith: My chemistry on the team here at Virginia is most definitely strong! Everyone knows that I’m the guy is going to be a big energy every day whether it is because I’m being loud & vocal, providing some slight humor among guys, I may dance a little bit to loosen guys up. But on the field, the fellas know that I’m a player that wears it all on my sleeve. I’m very passionate about the team’s performance and am not afraid to be in the middle to provide words of wisdom, persuasion, or encouragement.
Justin David Kish: What was game day preparation like?
Eric Smith: For me I wouldn’t do too much. I’d try to keep my energy preserved if I could by just stretching and listening to music. I mainly just try to stay focused without overthinking my job.
Justin David Kish: What were some of your on the field responsibilities at Virginia?
Eric Smith: At Virginia, I was in charge of being vocal to the rest of the Offensive Line as to where signs of blitz and defensive pressure showed up, as well as stunts performed by D-Lineman. Aside from play I usually provide energy on the sideline among my teammates and try to keep them up and motivated.
Justin David Kish: What have you learned from your past mistakes?
Eric Smith: I’ve learned that I must control my emotions when I play, because there have been times when I’ve been too protective over my teammates/brothers. I’ve learned that I should focus performing with more technique in order to win my one-on-ones each play instead loosing focus on the few times when I’ve gotten beat. Lastly I’ve learned to remain open to continue learning. This lesson alone could stand for any of past or future mistakes.
Justin David Kish: In the next couple of questions I am going to put you on the spot. My first question. If you could compare yourself to any current NFL offensive lineman who would you compare yourself to and why?
Eric Smith: Oooooh, that’s a good one! I honestly have not watched a ton of professional football enough to know guys in my position by there names. But if I had to pick on two guys I would choose Morgan Moses and Ryan Schraeder due to the fact that they are relatively long guys who express agility and power all together.
Justin David Kish: My final question. If I was an NFL General Manager why should I draft Eric Smith?
Eric Smith: Interesting… If you were an NFL General Manager I would suggest that draft me because a guy who is all in on and off the field. I’m determined and take criticism to my play as pure motivation. I’m gritty, yet smart. I’m a go-getter with a passion for what I do. Simple as that, sir.