TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 2021 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith has been training in Tampa in preparation for his coming chapter in the NFL.
He and other draft hopefuls are also juggling pre-draft meetings with NFL teams during this time, which similar to last spring, are being done virtually.
“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic so we’re doing a lot of Zoom calls,” Smith said. “Just trying to get a feel of the coaches and just letting them get a feel of you.”
Smith is projected as a top 15 pick in most mock drafts with some projections as high as the top 10.
The former University of Alabama wide receiver says he will be in Cleveland next Thursday for the NFL Draft ceremony. In the meantime, he and his fellow draft prospects are doing their best to impress teams over a screen.
“The meetings have been good,” Smith said. “Most of it is just football stuff– just getting on the board, watching some film. They’re just trying to see how smart you are really. Just seeing if you can learn the playbook and how you learn.”
“When I get on Zoom I just try to smile and be who I am,” said NFL draft hopeful Robert Jones out of Middle Tennessee State University. “I just try to talk and get to know their personal life and let them know mine.”
Smith and Jones are working out with NFL Performance Trainer and former Buccaneers wude recuever Yo Murphy to stay in top shape ahead of their pro careers. Murphy has been alongside these young men, watching them navigate these unusual circumstances and unique draft process.
“I have a lot of respect and I was inspired by the guys we have because no matter what hit them they just knew they had to be prepared for the unknown,” Murphy said. “They took it real mature.”
The upside is that these players aren’t having to fly all over the country to meet with teams in person allowing them to stick to their workouts and tend to that aspect of preparations for the next level.
“What are the benefits of me having to go through this process this way?” Murphy asked. “And that is it. With 30 in 30 visits, those guys are all over the place. Then they go right into the draft, right into minicamp so they don’t really have that opportunity to stay on the grind like they should.”
“I feel like it can go both ways,” Jones said. “I feel like being able to do virtual you can still workout and not have to fly and get out of shape. It only takes a couple days to get out of shape. You can keep working out, keep getting prepared. But you know also when you’re able to go to these teams, fly out, you get to show them who you really are. They get a feel for you and you can just show your personality.”
When it’s all said and done, the bottom line for these players is reaching a life-long goal of making it to the top level.
“There’s always a positive in it,” Murphy said. “No matter what, at the end of the day when the pandemic’s over or I get drafted and my name’s called, I’m going to an NFL team. I’m going to get an opportunity to chase my dreams and goals. I think all those kids are looking at it like ‘I can’t wait for that day. No matter how it got here, I just can’t wait for it.'”