5 things to know about DeVonta Smith, a draft option for the Miami Dolphins

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
View Comments

When DeVonta Smith was a true freshman at Alabama, he recorded only eight catches. But three went for touchdowns, including the final play of the 2017 season.

You probably recall 2nd-and-26. Tua Tagovailoa dropped back to pass and connected with a streaking Smith, securing Alabama's national championship defeat of Georgia.

That overtime catch is one of the most famous in Alabama history.

Before the play, Smith said he told Tagovailoa: "‘Trust me."

Now four years later, Smith must be wondering if the Dolphins will trust he would make similar plays with Tagovailoa in the NFL. Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, will certainly be considered by Miami with the sixth overall pick.

"Devonta Smith is a really good player," Tagovailoa said in December. "I was with him for three years. He’s very smart, very instinctive. He’s very athletic and he’s fast too, and he goes up and he gets the ball."

Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith catches a touchdown pass against Ohio State in the national championship game in January.

Smith was unable to play in the Senior Bowl, due to a hand injury. But he joined a roster coached by Miami's Brian Flores for meetings, anyway.

Let's say the two wanted to get to know each other a little better.

Smith ended his career as one of the most statistically dominant receivers in college football history. But that he is listed at 6-foot-1 and only 175 pounds — and has recently been weighed at 166 —is a recurring topic of discussion.

Can the man nicknamed "The Slim Reaper" destroy defenses at the highest level?

"If you’re a good player – I mean, you can nitpick all you want about a guy’s size – good players are good players are good players," Flores said in January. "I think we all can see that, and this guy’s a very good player."

Here are five things to know about Smith, the Alabama receiver:

Smith was born not far from the LSU campus in Amite City

Born close to the LSU campus

DeVonta Smith is 22 years old. He was born in Amite City, Louisiana, about an hour east of Baton Rouge and not far from the Mississippi border. He was raised in a home with his mother and brother no larger than 800 square feet, according to

Smith was nicknamed "Tay," or "Tay-tay" growing up and has been more often referred to as "Smitty" at Alabama.

Smith played cornerback, receiver and kick returner in high school, where he began his career weighing only 120 pounds. Alabama did not initially offer him a scholarship despite shining at a camp because he weighed only 140 pounds.

Some called him "Thinuine" according to

According to, Smith would drop to the floor in the hallway of his high school and do push-ups as students shuffled past, all in an effort to add strength.

Smith once considered pursuing basketball after breaking his collarbone in high school playing football. He was also an excellent basketball player.

One of Smith's mentors is Vincent Sanders, a barber in the town of Amite. Smith said Sanders encouraged him to continue when he considered giving up football for basketball after breaking a clavicle as a high school sophomore.

Sanders has said he mentors underprivileged athletes and gets involved in their recruiting process. Sanders has said he leans on his connections and has brought players to football camps.

More:Schad: Dolphins must avoid third-pick NFL Draft 'jinx' and find 'Gold Jacket' talent

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith following the Crimson Tide's victory over Notre Dame in the semifinal game in Arlington, Texas. Smith was the game's offensive MVP. [Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports}

Mark Richt once held a commitment from Smith at Georgia

Richt had commitment from Smith at Georgia

Smith chose Alabama over LSU, Florida State and Miami. Because LSU's Tiger Stadium is a short ride away, many in his home state were disappointed.

Smith had once committed to Georgia. He de-committed after Mark Richt was fired and a Bulldogs staffer he was close with was hired by Alabama.

According to The Athletic, Richt continued to recruit Smith after he was hired by Miami. Richt and assistant Thomas Brown visited Smith, but the next day Nick Saban reportedly dropped in and the rest is history.

Ed Orgeron had been hired by LSU but as strong a recruiter as he is, it was too late.

Smith was a four-star recruit as ranked by, but he was only the sixth-ranked receiver and 42nd overall.

Some scouting reports suggested Smith had good speed, elusiveness, route-running and hands, but wasn't particularly spectacular in any one area.

And then there was the frame. Smith has always been thin. And it's something he'll always have to address.

As a high school senior, Smith weighed 160 pounds.

More:Miami Dolphins 2021: 5 things to know about NFL Draft option Penei Sewell

Before he became a star, Smith was worked at Alabama defensive back

Smith first played in secondary at Alabama

In his first spring at Alabama, in part due to a logjam at receiver, Saban sent Smith over to defense.

Saban said Smith never complained. But he was returned to offense in less than a week.

According to, when Smith wasn't playing much as a true freshman, he decided to ask for more reps. So he requested more special teams, including as a gunner on punt coverage.

As a true freshman, Smith caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime to lift Alabama to a 26-23 victory over Georgia at the national championship game. Tagovailoa, who came off the bench, threw the historic 41-yard pass.

Among the receivers who posted more receiving yards than Smith during his first two seasons at Alabama were: Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Cam Sims and Jaylen Waddle, all of whom are in the NFL, or will be.

But as a junior Smith took a leap forward, with 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a senior, it was 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns.

In his final game for Alabama, Smith posted 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the national championship at Hard Rock Stadium. He did it all in the first half, before leaving with a hand injury.

“DeVonta Smith is one of the best pure receivers I’ve ever watched!" LeBron James tweeted. "Like a mix between Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. Man he’s good!”

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith catches a pass as Auburn linebacker Chandler Wooten tries to tackle him (Butch Dill, AP)

Smith is the rare Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver

Smith is rare Heisman wide receiver

Smith won the Heisman Trophy as a senior, becoming the first wide receiver to win the award since Desmond Howard in 1991.

No player in SEC history has more touchdown catches.

No player in Alabama history has more receiving yards or receiving touchdowns.

Smith beat out Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, another probable first-rounder.

Alabama coach Saban says Smith is one of the most selfless players he has ever coached. Reporters who have covered Smith say he is a man of few words.

As part of his Heisman Trophy speech, Smith said: "Just to all the young kids out there that's not the biggest, not the strongest, just keep pushing because I'm not the biggest. I've been doubted a lot just because of my size, and really it just comes down to you put your mind to it, you can do it."

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) catches a third quarter touchdown at the College Football Playoff Championship Game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Jan. 11, 2021.  Smith scored three touchdowns on the evening as the Crimson Tide defeated the Buckeyes 52-24.

Smith is a polarizing draft figure

Smith polarizing draft figure

There is an intense debate between draft analysts and certainly among NFL teams between Smith and LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase.

Chase sat out last season, while Smith played. Smith has been utterly dominant and productive, but so has Chase, who is bigger, stronger and perhaps faster.

More:Miami Dolphins 2021: 5 things to know about NFL Draft option Ja'Marr Chase

It will be fascinating to see what both players weigh (Smith declined to be weighed at the Senior Bowl) and how fast they run at upcoming Pro Days.

Smith has reportedly trained with Chase and Justin Jefferson, two receivers for LSU, in the offseason in the past.

Last year, Jeudy (Denver) and Ruggs (Las Vegas) were both Top 15 receivers. Smith is next in a great line.

Smith has been compared to Marvin Harrison, the Colts receiver who dominated the NFL despite his lithe frame. Saban has repeatedly downplayed any concerns about Smith's durability and strength.

“The guy’s a combination of, even though he’s a thin-built guy, he’s really not frail,” Saban said at the end of Smith's junior season. “He doesn’t play frail. He doesn’t play weak. He plays strong."

Smith has been praised for precise route-running, toughness and competitiveness. Smith also boasts strong, reliable hands and stellar body control.

Smith has said his favorite receiver growing up was Keenan Allen of the Chargers.

Smith has said he'd like to "run it back," with Tagovailoa.

Would Tagovailoa enjoy that?

"Definitely," Tua says.

More:Who could Dolphins draft and what might they get in deal of third overall pick?

View Comments