2006 Hodgson Vo-Tech graduate Derrell Smith’s success at the high school and college level have surprised few along the way, but being signed to a contract and invited to the training camp of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League has surprised even Smith himself.


 

2006 Hodgson Vo-Tech graduate Derrell Smith’s success at the high school and college level have surprised few along the way, but being signed to a contract and invited to the training camp of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League has surprised even Smith himself.

“Not at all,” Smith said when asked if he saw himself having a chance at an NFL career. “I wasn’t recruited much coming out of high school and it’s funny because I wasn’t very good at linebacker in high school.”

So questionable were Smith’s defensive skills coming out of Hodgson that the University of Delaware withdrew a scholarship offer and relayed to Silver Eagles head coach Frank Moffett that he wasn’t good enough for the position.

“They told my coach, ‘this kid can’t play linebacker,’ so my whole motivation was to prove them wrong,” Smith said.

And he did just that at Syracuse University, finishing with 270 tackles, nine sacks and two interceptions in his career, including 113 tackles in 2010, a season in which the Orange played in its first bowl game (The Pinstripe Bowl) in six years.

“I’m extremely proud of him. You saw something special in him because he had great character and he met all academic requirements,” Moffett said. “When you say student-athlete, put his picture next to it.”

“His main focus was academics, so we just stayed with where his focus was,” Derrell’s mother Hilary Smith said. “We’re very proud of him, he’s a very intelligent person and we know he’s going to make it.”

Smith signed with the Buccaneers (10 wins a year ago) because of the familiarity he had with the team as he went through the NFL scouting combine earlier in the spring.

“Other teams offered more money, but Tampa was the most interested in me at the combine,” Smith said. “I got to speak with the general manager and Coach Morris in person. I just felt it was a perfect match.”

Smith understands the transition from college to pro football isn’t easy, so he’s chosen to take a business-like approach to life in the NFL.

“College is pretty much ‘you’re there,’ but in the NFL, you’re competing for a livelihood,” he said. “So my motto is to make this money, and by that I mean work as hard as I can and do the best I can.”

Moffett believes that Smith’s hard work will pay off as it already has in the form of him coming back to Hodgson to work out with and speak to current members of the Silver Eagle football team.

“He was so committed in high school that during the summer, he would take three buses just to make weight training,” Moffett said. “We’ve already had this conversation with our kids – not everybody in the room is going to be a Derrell Smith, but you can work as hard as he does and do the little things like he does.”

Smith is aware that his success on and off the field will serve as inspiration for those that follow him.

“I was back home working out and a kid was going out as I was coming in and he said ‘Are you Derrell Smith? It’s great to meet you, I watch you on TV all the time,’” he said. “It’s like ‘Wow, these kids know who I am.’ It’s amazing that you might be motivating someone without even thinking about it.”

E-mail Chris Stevens at chris.stevens@doverpost.com