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Colts Prospect Interviews: James Smith-Williams, DE, NC State

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NCAA Football: East Carolina at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

A popular series from last draft cycle is returning yet again at Stampede Blue. Last offseason, I interviewed over 40 prospects that could eventually be fits for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a result, we were able to find out a lot about two Colts who went on to eventually be drafted by the team in Marvell Tell III and Khari Willis. This year I hope to interview even more prospects so you all can get an inside look at these player’s accomplishments and mindsets going into this next draft.

Our next prospect is defensive end James Smith-Williams from NC State. We had a great conversation about becoming a Team Captain in 2019, his internship and eventual job offer with IBM, and his go-to pass rush move.


Size:

6’3” 265 pounds

Combine Numbers:

40 Yard Dash: 4.6 sec / Bench Press: 28 reps / Vert Jump: 32 inch / Broad Jump: 123 inch

Senior Stats:

20 tackles, 1.0 tackle for a loss, and 1.0 sacks in just 6 games played

Fit with the Colts:

With the potential departure of Jabaal Sheard in free agency, the Colts could use a younger player to fill his role on the defense. While Smith-Williams has had his share of injuries in college, he is a gifted athlete who could fit into that role well. He is well built and natural leader as he took over that locker room in NC State the last few seasons. He will likely be a day three pick due to his injury history and lack of production but I think taking a shot on a very athletic player with great character would be a smart move for the Colts on day three of this draft.

Round Projection:

Mid-Late Day 3


Highlights:


Interview:

ZH: I saw that you gained 60+ pounds since your Freshman season. That’s kind of incredible to be honest. How were you able to do it and did it help you reach your goals at NC State?

JSM: For me, I played DE/OLB in high school. When I came to NC State, they told me I can’t be 195 pounds playing defensive end so they moved me to nickelback/hybrid role and I wanted to work at getting back to playing at the line of scrimmage. I kept working to get to the time and place where I would be heavy enough to be effective and efficient in that role. It was just a gradual gaining of 60 pounds over four years and by my redshirt Junior year I was consistently around 260-265.


ZH: So you said it was a slow and gradual gain of that weight but was there anything you did diet wise or workout wise to really put on that weight?

JSM: I think it’s just getting to a college strength program and that helps you put on a lot of good weight. Obviously the program I came from has a lot of accolades for the staff in the weight room so their leadership and mentorship made that kind of gain attainable. You obviously do some with the diet with calories and carbs to get to that goal weight.


ZH: You struggled a bit with injuries early in your career, having two seasons early in your career end with injuries. How did it feel though to work back through those injuries and put up a productive season in 2018 as a result?

JSM: Yeah that stuff obviously gives you perspective on how important the game is and it’s frustrating when you go down with any type of injury. That redshirt Freshman year going down with the ankle and having the ankle surgery and the sixth month recovery from that was tough. Then the redshirt Sophomore year I was backing up Bradley Chubb obviously who is a great player and yeah it was nice to get out there and on the field my Junior year and help my team win some games.


ZH: I saw you had an internship with IBM the last few summers and that has turned into a job offer waiting for you when you are done your playing career. How has that whole experience with IBM been for you?

JSM: Yeah so I spent two summers with IBM doing technology and transformation and all types of stuff. Just doing all kinds of stuff in the technology space and obviously that turned into working with advertising and photo shop and stuff in the marketing space and they ended up liking my work enough that it turned into a home for me waiting for me whenever my football career comes to end. That’s at least the offer as it stands now and hopefully it’s still waiting for me when I’m ready (laughs).


ZH: So my question with that though is you know these teams want football to be like the only thing in your life. They want you to be 100% committed to the NFL. How are you convincing NFL teams in these meetings and interviews that you are committed while you have this other job offer sitting there?

JSM: I think only one team so far asked me like flat out why are you here instead of at IBM and I kind of just laughed and looked at him because it’s obvious right? I played this game my entire life and I just love the game. You don’t battle back from injuries or sit for five years on a team and give your heart to a program unless you love what you are doing. I think teams nowadays also understand that a well rounded person can contribute a lot on the field as well as a lot off the field with the locker room and coaches and stuff like that. I’m committed and hard working and you can see that even in my GPA and job offer. All that stuff transfers over to the game and I’ll bring that to a team.


ZH: I saw you were a Team Captain last season which I’m sure was a huge honor for you. How did it feel to be a captain and a leader for that team last year?

JSM: It is just an unbelievable honor to be identified as one of three (I believe) Senior Captains and to be that leader on the defensive side of the ball and for the entire team. You know I was just trying to be a good role model and leader on the field for those guys and for the coaches and players to pick me as a Captain is definitely something I take a lot of pride in.


ZH: Players are completely different from their Freshman year to their Senior year, especially in your case with how you had to go through weight gain and injuries. What area of your game would you say you improved the most in since that first year?

JSM: I think I really developed as a player at the point of attack. Transitioning from safety to linebacker to the line of scrimmage, you learn that players get on you a lot quicker. So learning to be quicker off the line and improving my reaction and stuff all improved for me and as I got older and wiser, I got a lot more comfortable playing at the point of attack.


ZH: You have great size and athleticism. Where do you see your best fit being along the defensive line in the NFL?

JSM: I feel like every defensive end wants to be in a wide-9 and get that chance to rush off the edge. I think for me I like to be in that 6i or 5 so I can work inside and get that contact quickly and shed a block and make plays. That just fits what I want to do on defense in the NFL.


ZH: I know you played some special teams early on at NC State. How comfortable do you feel coming into the NFL and being an immediate contributor on special teams?

JSM: Obviously as I got older, I played less on special teams because I played a lot of snaps on defense and they wanted to keep that mileage low. I was always on the scout team in practice and always heavily involved with our special teams and what we had going on so I think that’s a role I can get comfortable in early on and really make an impact on.


ZH: What would you say is your go-to move when rushing the passer?

JSM: I think for me, I’m a big speed to power guy. I use the bull and the long arm to see the tackle’s set and how heavy he is and I go from there. My game is definitely more of a power game.


ZH: Final question for you. What is my team getting overall if they draft James Smith-Williams?

JSM: Obviously the off the field stuff speaks for itself but I’ll do a lot in the community and be very involved in the community. I’m an upstanding guy in the locker room and all that stuff. On the field, I’m gonna give my best effort to be the best all around player. I’m always in the right spot and it doesn’t always fill up the stat sheet but it goes a long way towards winning games and at the end of the day, all I want to do is help a team win games.