Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith is in Chicago for the NFL draft.
Although an NFL draft advisory committee gave him a return to school recommendation because they didn't project him to be picked within the first two rounds, the Owings Mills graduate's stock is on the rise after declaring early for the draft. Smith graduated from Penn State with a degree in criminology.
While Smith is still regarded as unlikely to go in the first round, he believes he has a solid chance of going in the second or third round, during the second day of the draft.
"I'm embracing it all and going with the flow," Smith told The Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. "I can't complain about anything. I'm feeling good about how everything is looking for me. I've gotten a lot of great feedback from NFL teams."
Juan Castillo has been in frequent touch with Smith via phone and text messages.
"Coach Castillo has been great to talk with," Smith said. "He's been very positive throughout the draft process. I talked to him at the scouting combine and he's stayed in touch."
Smith visited the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills. He played in the Senior Bowl all-star game.
Smith was a preseason Outland Trophy candidate who wasn't named All-Big Ten Conference last season.
"You have to be confident in yourself," Smith said. "I went with my gut after talking it over with my family and made my decision on my own."
At the combine, Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 5.27 seconds, bench pressed 225 pounds 26 times and had a 32-inch vertical leap. Smith is 6-foot-6, 328 pounds with 35 5/8 arms and 10 3/8 inch hands.
At his Pro Day workout, Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 and 5.03 seconds. He started 31 games at left tackle at Penn State.
Smith was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions. A U.S. Army All-American in high school, Smith chose Penn State over scholarship offers from UCLA, Maryland and North Carolina State.
Smith has bench pressed 400 pounds and squatted more than 500 pounds, impressive strength for a position in which he'll need all the leverage he can find.
"I'm very confident in my play and what I can do," Smith said. "It's the competitiveness in me and my ability to compete. You have to be confident in yourself and your skill.
"In the NFL, you have to be consistent with your technique and whatnot, hands, feet and whatever the offensive line coaches teach me in terms of footwork."
At Penn State, Smith dealt with the hardships of sanctions against the program stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno's death and the coaching change from Bill O'Brien to James Franklin.
"It made me into the man I am today," Smith said. "I learned to go through adversity. It taught me life is not easy. You have to be able to adjust and adapt. It definitely taught me a lot."
In talking to NFL teams, Smith said they primarily project him as either a left tackle or right tackle.
"I can play every spot except for center," Smith said. "I can play four out of five positions. That's the only one I haven't learned yet."