OWINGS MILLS - Running the hill at Oregon Ridge Park is a challenge for even the most gifted of athletes.
As trainer Kyle Jakobe says, the hill is a ski slope without the snow, a seemingly never-ending stretch of grass and dirt ascending at a 45-degree angle.
Jakobe has taken numerous professional athletes to the hill for workouts over the years. Ray Rice. Darrius Heyward-Bey. Mark Clayton. Plenty of other current and former NFL players.
To Jakobe, the hill will reveal the true character of an athlete. And to Jakobe, one day of watching Torrey Smith go through a workout at Oregon Ridge will tell you everything that you need to know about Smith.
"If you ever go out to Oregon Ridge and you see Torrey out there, it just redefines everything that you think about a guy working hard," said Jakobe, who owns Sweat Performance in Lutherville. "Everybody tells their stories about someone that works hard or somebody that has this legendary work ethic, but I invite anyone to come out to Oregon Ridge and go through a work out with Torrey and see what hard work is really about."
Many see the product of Smith's hard work.
In three years, Smith has evolved from a fast and athletic guy playing wide receiver into a polished and dependable wide receiver who still has that same speed and athleticism.
But the stories like the ones Jakobe tells of Smith at Oregon Ridge help to explain why Smith has become what he has and why different people, including Ravens coach John Harbaugh, refer to Smith as the most efficient improver they've ever seen.
"His work ethic is amazing," said Rice, who trains with Smith during the offseason. "I'm telling you, I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a guy consistently run routes at the speed he runs routes play after play after play.
"Torrey's like a motor that just doesn't stop. He just keeps going and going and going. His stamina is literally through the roof. He definitely gets after it."
Smith's training doesn't involve anything out of the ordinary by NFL standards.
Like most wide receivers, he does ladder drills to improve his footwork. He does cone drills for agility. He practices his route running. He does exercises to improve his hand-eye coordination. Injury prevention is a big point of emphasis for him. And he spends time every day before practice catching passes from the JUGGS machine in an effort to continue to improve his hands.
But what sets Smith apart from a training standpoint is his efficiency.
"He completes everything, all of his tasks for a workout quickly, but it's never hurried," Jakobe said. "He's always very methodical about how he does it. He knocks it out quick, but he knocks it out with the utmost quality. Everything that the guy does is something that he can be proud of."
Smith's teammates and coaches describe his on-field efficiency in a similar way.
"Torrey is a guy that improves every day," Harbaugh said during training camp. "He really does a great job, and he is the perfect example of how to maximize your ability. That's what I see in Torrey Smith. It's a lesson for all of us to learn because he's not a guy that questions. ...
"He decides who he trusts, but he trusts his [position] coach, Jim Hostler, and he trusts his quarterback, and he just tries to do and tries to understand and tries to grow as a football player, and he makes the most of every single day. He's as far along as anybody could possibly be at this stage of his career."
The most obvious improvements are his hands and in his route running, but Smith is simply a better, more complete, savvier receiver than he was even at the end of last season.
Smith has always been fast. He's always been capable of making big plays down the field. He did at the University of Maryland. He did as a rookie with the Ravens in 2011.
But Smith was a noticeably improved and less flawed player last year, and he's continued to progress.
"I think I've developed a lot," Smith said. "I've improved at everything. I approach every day wanting to get better because I know I need to get better. I want to be one of the best to be playing. I want to help my team win. And in order to help our team win, I need to be the best possible player I can be, and that obviously takes work."
It also takes coaching, and Smith says that Hostler has been the biggest individual contributor to his progression.
"Obviously he's my position coach, but he's helped me grow," Smith said. "He's been able to coach me through things. I trust him, and he's helped me develop a lot."
Smith has also learned from his peers.
He played with and acquired knowledge from Anquan Boldin during his first two years in the league.
Players from other teams have aided in Smith's development as well.
Smith trains with Jakobe and teammates like Rice, Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith when he's in Baltimore during the offseason, but he spent much of this past offseason at Bommarito Performance Systems in Miami, Florida, one of the most highly regarded training facilities in the country.
At Bommarito, Smith trained with Pro Bowl players like Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jon Beason and Wes Welker. He was also able to improve his route running and footwork with help from former Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson.
"I think him training around the best helped," Rice said. "He was around Anquan Boldin. He was around different receivers. He got to see stuff. He's been around Ochocinco [Johnson]. ... Ochocinco was a great route runner, so I think Torrey got to see great route running and started to emulate his game after certain people."
Smith is still known more on a national level for his ability to stretch the field vertically, but he continues to prove that he's now capable of hurting defenses in other ways as well.
He turned a slant into a 77-yard touchdown during the Ravens' second preseason game, and he has 16 catches for 269 yards through the first three games of the regular season.
"He's developed," Rice said. "I've watched him grow. The game has slowed down for him. As fast as he is, the game has slowed down for him. That's when you take the next step in your career. You can play fast, but you've got to also play efficient, and that's what he's doing. He's playing fast, and now he's playing efficient as well."
Smith is still growing. And he'll be under scrutiny this year, his first as the unquestioned top receiver in Baltimore's passing game. But based on everything he's done to this point, Smith will continue to work, continue to evolve and continue to show why he's thought of by so many as such an efficient improver.
"He's played well," Harbaugh said. "Torrey is a big play waiting to happen. He's going to have a great year. No doubt about it."