When invitations were sent out to draft prospects for the NFL scouting combine, Towson All-American cornerback Tye Smith was happy to find out he's on the list.
Behind the strength of a good week at the East-West Shrine all-star game and growing buzz among NFL scouts, Smith will join Towson defensive end Ryan Delaire at the combine in February at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. This marks the second consecutive year that Towson may have a player drafted after running back Terrance West was selected in the third round last spring by the Cleveland Browns.
"My reaction is it was kind of surreal to find out that I'm going to the combine," Smith told The Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. "It's something I've been working for ever since I was younger. I've worked hard for this, and my hard work is starting to be noticed. Terrance being drafted and doing well in the NFL opens some doors."
During the East-West game earlier this month, Smith turned heads with his coverage skills as he drew positive reviews from NFL scouts and draft analysts. Smith played on the East roster, where he was coached by Hall of Fame middle linebacker Mike Singletary, a former San Francisco 49ers head coach.
Among the NFL personnel that evaluated Smith at the all-star game in St. Petersburg, Fla.: Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz and national scout Joe Douglas.
Smith said he didn't meet with the Ravens at the game. Among the teams he spoke with: the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams.
"I feel like it was a great experience," Smith said. "Me coming from a [Football Championship Subdivision] school, I'd never had the chance to compete against [Football Bowl Subdivision] talent every week. They know those guys on a first-name basis. When I got there, people didn't know where Towson was.
"I feel like my work throughout the week helped them realize where Towson was. I put myself on the map and helped promote my school."
It opened some eyes when Smith was measured and weighed in at 6 feet 1, 191 pounds instead of the 170 pounds he was listed at on the Tigers' roster.
"Yeah, the weight really helps me," Smith said. "All the teams expected me to weigh in at 170. I played at 185 and I've been at 190 since I've been training down here at Total Athletic Performance in Naples, Fla. Once I got down here and started working out, I started gaining the weight. I've kept my speed."
Smith started every game last season and ranked second on the defense with 85 tackles, finishing his career with 312 to rank fifth in Towson school history. He led the team with eight pass deflections and earned Associated Press All-American recognition and was a first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection.
Smith was a three-year starter who finished with six career interceptions, six forced fumbles and 26 passes defended.
"He's got all the statistics and traits when you match Tye up with some of the top corners," said Sean Stellato, Smith's agent. "All the dialogue was very positive with the NFL teams. They all felt he should be invited to the combine. Sometimes, a small-school player will be under the radar. It's not where you're from, it's how you come. Length, character, student of the game, he's the total package. He seriously watches film.
"He flashed every day at East-West. I think a lot of teams were impressed with how he covered Kevin White, the West Virginia receiver. He played him tough. Tye has that mindset that he wants to get better. He wants to go up against the best. When teams really get to know him as a person, they're going to see he's a really special kid. He's a 'Yes sir, no sir,' kind of guy, and his mom and dad raised him very well from a character standpoint."
At Wakefield High School in Raleigh, N.C., Smith was an all-conference wide receiver and cornerback who had 88 tackles and four interceptions as a senior. He was an All-American in track and field.
"I was a late bloomer," said Smith, who had two sacks and a forced fumble during a 2012 game against Louisiana State.
Smith plans to do every test at the scouting combine, which includes the 40-yard dash, bench press and vertical leap. Towson holds its annual Pro Day for NFL teams on April 1.
"I think I'm going to do really well," Smith said. "I ran track, so I know a lot about individual testing. I'm used to that. I think the running wiill showcase my talent. I feel like track helps me with that."