The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Presented by Winnol went down this past Saturday at The Home Depot Center on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. This week we are continuing to expand on our coverage of the game—from player and coach interviews to videos, photos and highlights. For more on the game, follow @NFLPABowl on Twitter.
Robert Smith cleans up rather well, doesn’t he? Can’t imagine that the transition was particularly easy, however Smith has certainly made it appear so ever since making the switch from being an NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings to college football analyst for ESPN.
After finishing a live segment for the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports, Smith stepped away from the on-the-field booth stationed at the recent NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and took time to talk with TDdaily. With the lights, cameras and action in the background, he was game.
A number of topics were discussed, naturally. Everything from high school ball to college life at nearby Ohio State thereafter, from his experiences at the 1993 NFL Draft to the trials and tribulations with the Vikings. He also had plenty to say when it comes to Adrian Peterson.
Selected No. 21 overall by the Purple People Eaters, Smith enjoyed an eight-year stint with Minnesota. He gained 6,818 yards on the ground over the course of his career, a Vikings record at one point. That is, of course, until Peterson surpassed the total. Smith had 32 touchdowns as well. His 27.2 yards per touchdown run is an NFL record that stands today.
With the particulars about Smith out of the way, let’s get down to business.
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TD Daily: Tough day at work, I imagine, sitting behind a desk and evaluating talent. With your playing days behind you now, how’s the gig in front of the television treating you?
Robert Smith: I have it pretty good. I enjoy my job. You’ll never hear me say otherwise. Best part about it is I’m able to stay connected to the game, and, most importantly, the players
TD: Can this showcase, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, be a stepping stone to the NFL?
RS: This is great opportunity for some of the young guys out here. For me, coming out of Ohio State as an underclassman, it wasn’t a question about when I was going to get drafted, it was only where. I was fortunate, not everyone has that luxury. This is a chance for prospects to gain invaluable information from coaches such as Herm Edwards and Dick Vermeil. This is one of the last chances these individuals will have to impress the scouts, and, hopefully, make an NFL roster someday.
TD: Run into any former colleagues? Familiar faces from your gridiron days?
RS: Yes. I talked with Art Monk and Darrell Green. Andre Reed is somewhere around here, Isaac Bruce too. I had a chance to spend some time and speak with Priest Holmes as well.
TD: Having been through the process these players are going through today, preparing for the next level, do you have any lasting memories of your journey to the professional ranks?
RS: The time period between the end of the college season and the draft, it was nerve-racking, [but] also one of the most incredible times of my life. We didn’t have the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl back then. It was all about the NFL Combine and meeting the general managers and coaches.
TD: The Vikings took you in the first round—did you see that coming at all?
RS: Had a feeling I would end up in Minnesota; I was in constant contact with the management. Then I got the call. It was a surreal, something I will always treasure and remember.
TD: Eight years later, your career comes to an end, with the same team, no less. Don’t mean to put you on the spot, but what stands out the most about your time with the Vikings?
RS: Wow, I have so many fond memories. It’s difficult to choose. Here’s one for you: it was my first mini-camp and I sat down next to Roger Craig for team meetings. I couldn’t believe it. That’s when it hit me, I had made it. Honestly, I could go on, and on, about my days in Minnesota.
TD: How are your connections with the Vikings? Can you make a call and get seats to home games at the Metrodome? My bad, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Anyway, do you have any hook-ups with the franchise?
RS: You’re right, it is the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say they hand out freebies to me. I normally watch Minnesota play once a year, whether it’s near my home in Houston or on the road. The Vikings, in many ways, are my extended family.
TD: Let’s switch gears and talk about Peterson. Everyone would like to hear your thoughts about A.D. I Imagine you knew the Vikings rushing record was not safe with him around?
RS: He passed me at the start of last season, and no, I wasn’t terribly surprised. If we’re being honest, I don’t think anyone was surprised. It was a foregone conclusion. If Adrian stays healthy, he’s going to break every record out there, not just mine from my time in Minnesota.
TD: At 26 years old now, Peterson has gained 8,849 yards on the ground. Emmitt Smith sits atop the all-time rushing list with 18,335. Think the youngster can catch the old-timer?
RS: He passed up this Smith. I think he can pass up the other Smith too.
TD: You would know better than us, given the fact you played the position—are you saying he’s the best back in the NFL? Is anyone else in the conversation or is it a one-horse race?
RS: It’s not even close, he’s head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack. Adrian is my favorite player to watch right now. Rushing for 2,000 yards, you’re doing something right. His combination of size and speed, lateral quickness and agility, he’s a special player. The intensity with which he plays the game is unique. There are some guys in the NFL who have the talent, and the measurables, but certainly not the work ethic or determination. The way Adrian runs the ball, it’s dangerous.
Sean Ceglinsky is TDdaily contributor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @seanceglinsky.