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Former Ravens receiver Torrey Smith dives into media industry with new radio show, podcast

Two-time Super Bowl champion Torrey Smith, a former wide receiver for the Ravens and Maryland, laughs with Megan Waranch while putting together care packages for homeless people at the CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield annual CareFirst Commitment event in January in Annapolis.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Torrey Smith, a former wide receiver for the Ravens and Maryland, laughs with Megan Waranch while putting together care packages for homeless people at the CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield annual CareFirst Commitment event in January in Annapolis.

After fielding questions from reporters and having his play critiqued throughout his eight-year NFL career, former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith has crossed sides post-retirement. He’s venturing into the media industry.

Smith debuted Aug. 10 as the co-host of “The Opening Drive” on SiriusXM NFL Radio with former NFL defensive back Solomon Wilcots. The show, which runs Monday mornings from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., is the latest frontier for a player who has never been bounded to the sport he played.

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“I used to do interviews with [Wilcots] all the time as a player,” Smith said in an interview. “And after I retired, I had the opportunity to switch to the other side of the table to be an analyst. It’s been pretty cool so far. It’s a different kind of challenge. ... You realize how talented the people are that are asking questions and creating a flow of an interview.”

The former Maryland football standout prepared for this opportunity, even before he decided to retire ahead of the 2019 season. Smith spent time in the NFL Network’s Los Angeles studio as an intern. He participated in the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp, which prepares players for a career in media. The guest appearances on NFL Network, ESPN and local radio shows helped him get repetitions.

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Now, for three hours every week, he gives his take on the NFL landscape from his home studio, taking precaution because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I remember covering Torrey when he was a rookie coming out of Maryland with the Baltimore Ravens,” Wilcots said. “There are some stories, I can sort of recollect games that he played in as a rookie when he was breaking in. I know how to maybe pull out of him some of those great stories that he may have, having played with a program like the Ravens, won a Super Bowl with an organization like the Eagles.

“A lot of the stories that he tells on the air, I think our listeners can really learn a lot from those experiences, and I think it helps to make a better broadcast.”

The pivot from playing among the fraternity of NFL brethren to suddenly having to critique them can be challenging for a former player. Wilcots said the key to a successful transition is all about striking a balance and being fair — as any journalist would — but also saying what needs to be said, no matter the relationship with the player or team.

“I think sometimes former athletes can err on the side of having an agenda,” Wilcots said. “Or trying to maybe be unbiased and then going in too hard and not being respectful ... of [a] general manager or owner or former player.”

The radio show isn’t Smith’s only media endeavor. Shortly after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered gatherings and sent millions inside their homes, he launched his podcast, “Trending Thoughts with Torrey Smith,” in which he reflects on current events, shares his experience playing in the NFL and speaks with a survivor of domestic violence. Guests have included his wife, Chanel, former Ravens safety Ed Reed and former Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.

“I’ve always been interested in the media,” Smith said. “I’m a person who likes to debate. I like to learn. I like to listen to people, even people who don’t think the same way I think.”

For someone who has a penchant for hot takes on Twitter — whether it’s related to sports or the upcoming presidential election — that can elicit fierce backlash, the podcast serves as a better outlet to discuss nuanced topics, as compared to 280-character tweets on sometimes volatile forum.

“That’s my favorite thing about having a podcast. It’s really just an extension of my Twitter,” Smith said.

As the reach and influence of social media has expanded in recent years, so has the media landscape. Athletes are as prominent as ever within the media, and venues such as The Players’ Tribune serve as platforms for others to tell their own stories, in their own words. Smith himself announced his retirement via Uninterrupted, NBA star LeBron James’ media company.

“Before you had to leave it up to the media. Now players have recognized the influence they have,” Smith said. “You don’t have to rely on someone else to get a message out. You can literally put it out yourself due to social media. Or you can go to an outlet and explain your feelings and your thoughts. It’s really a game-changer for athletes these days to recognize the responsibility they’ve always had, but to really have the ability to communicate it in a better way.”

While Smith isn’t shy to touch any topic, his most valuable expertise will likely come opining on the Ravens, the team he spent his first four seasons with, winning his first of two championships.

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“When you have the recipe of leadership and a great quarterback like you do in Lamar Jackson, and the camaraderie and the love and respect that they have for each other, you have an opportunity to do special things,” Smith said. “For them, I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody that this is a team that can win the Super Bowl. They have the talent, they have the leadership, they have the right pieces. But it’s on them to go out there and do it.”

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