5 Questions with Torrey Smith

5 Questions with Torrey Smith

Torrey Smith

Rookie WR Torrey Smith, who had an impressive career at the University of Maryland, was the 52nd overall pick in the April draft by the Ravens. He’s become quite the weapon for the division-leading Baltimore Ravens. On Sunday, he had six catches for 165 yards and a touchdown in a pivotal 31-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Back on November 6, Smith had the game-winning 26-yard touchdown with 8 seconds remaining in the game against the Ravens’ bitter rival Steelers. Smith has become the deep threat the Ravens have been in search of for years. His first three career catches in the league went for touchdowns of 74, 41 and 18 yards in a blowout win over the Rams on September 25.

Eastbay sat down with Smith in Baltimore shortly after being drafted. We talked to him about being a part of the Under Armour family, his experience with Eastbay, his advice for kids and what has lead to his success.

Eastbay: Talk about your relationship with UA.
Torrey Smith: I’ve had a relationship with Under Armour since I stepped foot on campus at Maryland. Obviously our school is sponsored by them. The owner of Under Armour [Kevin Plank] graduated from Maryland and some of the people that work here graduated from Maryland. So when I left school early and was going into the (draft) process I got in contact with the people at Under Armour. Now they’re like family and they all look out for me. The thing about Under Armour gear is I feel like they’re always trying to be a step ahead. As far as the performance side of things, they’re always trying to go the extra yard and try to put themselves in front of everyone else.

Eastbay: What advice would you give kids?
TS: First thing first, you gotta take care of home. That’s staying out of trouble and doing right in school, because if you’re not doing those things then other opportunities won’t present themselves.

Eastbay: Talk about your experience with Eastbay.
TS: I always got the magazine delivered to my house when I was younger. When I was younger I would look forward to getting the magazine to try to pick out the newest and coolest shoe. Eastbay magazines have been coming to my house as long as I can remember. My big cousins, my mom, everyone was looking at it. It’s something I’ve always been around.

Eastbay: What are you passionate about off the field?

TS: I’m big on community service, giving back. I’ve always been doing that since I was in middle school. Doing various things, doing whatever I could to help out so being that I’m in a position now, there’s a lot more things I can do.

Eastbay: What would you attribute your success to?
TS: I feel like my success has been based on the trials and tribulations I’ve been faced with. As a youngster I have had problems at home just like a lot of other people and I was able to overcome it. I faced a lot of adversity and I’ve always continued to go the right way so I feel like those lessons I learned as a young kid helped me mature early and helped me as a man.

Smith says getting drafted itself was a blessing and he is thankful for the opportunity. He also says he’s happy to be a part of one of the most stable organizations in football. He loves the fans in Maryland and is excited to help the Ravens win.

Photo courtesy of Under Armour

Coaching Spotlight: Shaka Smart

Coaching Spotlight: Shaka Smart

words // Jordan Hagedorn

images // Scott Brown Photography – VCU Athletics

When it comes to college sports, a lot of the time it’s the coaches who help shape the athletes into team players and the men they will become in life. Virginia Commonwealth University head coach Shaka Smart is a prime example of that.

Growing up in Oregon, Wisconsin Smart developed a love for sports and eventually gravitated towards basketball. Smart played basketball in high school and eventually went on to play at the next level at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. After his freshman year of college, his coach Bill Brown left to go to another school but told Shaka when he was done playing college basketball, he could work for him if he wanted to.  After Smart finished his college career as the all-time assists leader at Kenyon College, he took Brown up on his offer and became an assistant coach at California University of Pennsylvania. After two seasons at Cal U, he took a job as Director of Basketball Operations for Dayton University and then from there took Assistant coaching jobs at Akron, Clemson and Florida before being named the head coach at VCU in 2009.

As the head coach at VCU, Smart has taken the college basketball world by storm. In his first season at VCU, he led the Rams to a 27-10 record and won the 2010 College Basketball Invitational. Last year, in his second season, the Rams’ finished with a 23-11 record, just barely squeaking into the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed. They ended up going on a run that captured the hearts of college basketball fans everywhere, knocking off USC, a fellow 11-seed, Georgetown (6), Purdue (3), Florida State (10) and the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. While they eventually lost to Butler in the Final Four in Houston, it was a run that VCU will never forget.

Coach Smart was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with us last month for the cover of Eastbay Team Sales:

Jordan Hagedorn: Can you talk about your experience with Eastbay?
Shaka Smart: I’ve been looking at the Eastbay catalog for years and years. It goes back to high school and college when I was at that age that our players are at when basketball shoes and athletic apparel was like the coolest thing in the world. In college we would countdown the days until the catalog would arrive and then we’d fight over it. I had one roommate in college who probably ordered just about everything that there was to order out of Eastbay.

JH: Do you have any favorite shoes from back in the day?
SS: My favorite shoes were Jordans. I didn’t have a lot of Jordans. I only had a couple different pairs, but I remember as a senior in high school getting my first pair. The shoes I had were the white/black/red Jordan X. I didn’t even wear them for about a month. I just had them in my room. It was like I had a shrine to the shoes and then I wore them that season.

JH: What are the qualities you look for in a VCU player?
SS: We try to encourage our guys to play extremely hard and to play, excuse the pun, but to play smart and to think team at all times. Those are really our three rules on the court, play hard, play smart, think team. We want guys that are very unselfish. We encourage our guys to always have a high appreciation level for all of the good things that they have in their life. All of the good people and privileges they have. It’s a pretty sweet deal to be a Division I college basketball player and to have literally 10-20 people whose full-time job it is to help you grow as a person, as a player and as a student. We encourage our guys to take advantage of that.

JH: What are three things that make you a successful coach?
SS: Energy. I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm because I have a passion for what I am doing. I really enjoy it. I wake up every morning excited about going to work. I don’t consider it a job. I consider it a privilege to be around our guys to help make them better so that’s hopefully a strength of mine. I spend a lot of time with the players. That’s something that is important to me. Just trying to be around the guys as much as I can to really develop a strong relationship with them that’s deeper than just basketball because I really think that it’s all connected on the court and off the court. If we can help these guys become the best version of themselves, the basketball part will take care of itself. I really don’t have much else going on in my life besides my family. I’m pretty single-minded when it comes to what I do with my time.

JH: What coaches do you admire and respect the most and who do you look up to? Do you have a mentor?
SS: Yeah. I have a lot of mentors. Some of whom I worked for and some whom I followed from afar and just enjoyed the way they do things. All of the guys that I worked for were terrific mentors. Bill Brown is a coach at California University of Pennsylvania. I played for him at Kenyon College and then worked for him at Cal PA. Oliver Purnell who is now at DePaul, I worked for at Dayton and Clemson is a terrific mentor. Both of those guys are also father figures for me. My dad really wasn’t a strong, positive influence in my life so those guys are like fathers for me. Keith Dambrot, who I worked for at Akron, is a great friend and a phenomenal coach. He’s someone I look at as a mentor. He’s someone I talk to probably more than anyone in the business. I worked for Dan Hipsher who is just a phenomenal offensive coach and really taught me a lot. And, obviously, Billy Donovan, who is the last head coach I worked for. I consider him to be the foremost authority on offensive basketball in college basketball. He’s a genius. He’s got a brilliant mind for the game.

JH: Growing up did you see yourself as a coach?
SS: I saw myself as a player. Like a lot of kids, I just wanted to play basketball as long as I could. I played a lot of sports growing up. I played baseball and soccer and a couple other sports. Basketball was something I got into a little later than some of the other sports. It just developed into the sport I liked the most and I just wanted to play as long as I could. Late in high school I started doing some coaching. I coached my younger brother’s teams in basketball and soccer. It was more just amusing than anything else. I just got a kick out of it. It wasn’t something I took too seriously but when my college coach left to go to another school after my freshmen year, he said to me when I got done playing, if I wanted to work for him I could. So that was kind of the first time I thought about getting into coaching.

JH:You were sought-after after this season. A lot of schools love your passion and ability. Why did you choose to stay at VCU?
SS: It’s just a great place to be. It’s a terrific University with a good tradition of winning and a very good support system for me, our players and our coaching staff. Honestly, I just got here so it’s not a situation where I have any type of urgency to go anywhere else. I really like being here and I really like the players we have. I couldn’t see myself leaving them.
JH: What are some coaching fundamentals that you take pride in?
SS: Trapping. Our full court press and sometimes in the half court is something that’s really important to us. Shooting the ball (laughs) is a big one because we sure fling it up there a lot of the time, that’s a big one. That’s sometimes the hardest thing to teach. It’s not like we turn guys into phenomenal shooters. I would say more than anything we hopefully provide them with the confidence to let it fly to take big shots and make big shots.

JH:What three pieces of advice do you have for young coaches?
SS: Get to know yourself as a coach and learn what it is that drives and motivates you. I think a lot of time that can inform the decisions you make along your path in coaching. Work hard. That has to be the foundation. That’s what gets you in the door. Having an extreme work ethic is not for everybody. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. It’s never-ending and it’s something that you have to have a tremendous passion for. Remember to have tremendous loyalty — and that loyalty is a two-way street. It’s something that you have to remember as an assistant coach as you’re working for a head coach. Your most important job is to serve the head coach and to serve the program. As a head coach, the most important job is to serve that university where you work and the players you have.

JH: What did you keep in mind on your journey?
SS: Probably the biggest thing that I would tell myself is “you don’t know what you don’t know.” There’s so many times in life where we look back on situations and we say, “If I only knew then what I know now.” But we also see that there were people along the way that were trying to give us the answers to the test before we took it. But a lot of times as young people — and I certainly was one of them — we don’t always listen and we have to learn the hard way.
JH: What does it mean to be on the cover of Eastbay Team Sales?
SS: It’s always an honor any time our team or players or coaches are put on the cover of anything or highlighted in any way, but you always remember it’s certainly a direct reflection of the team’s success. It’s why I’m there because of what our team did.

JH: What do you have to say to the world?
SS: Thanks for everyone that supported us last year and that continues to support us. Our style of play at VCU is defined by one word: havoc. And it’s a lot of fun to play and to watch and to coach, so I just encourage everybody to follow our team, support our players and see what happens.

Athlete Spotlight: Nick Collins

Athlete Spotlight: Nick Collins

words // Jordan Hagedorn

For most kids growing up, they dream of a chance to play pro sports.  Much is the same for Green Bay Packers’ safety Nick Collins, but he apparently dreamed much bigger.  Growing up watching pro football, he told his family, “One day I’m going to be out there playing in the Super Bowl and I’m gonna contribute and do something very special.” Turns out he may have seen the future back then, as what he said came true back in February.

After losing a tough game to the Patriots 31-27 on December 19th, the Packers needed to win their final two games against the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. On the day after Christmas, Collins had a 4th-quarter interception against the Giants in a convincing 45-17 victory.  In the regular-season finale — a must-win game against the NFC North rival Bears, Collins picked off Jay Cutler late in the game to seal a 10-3 playoff-clinching win.

Entering the playoffs as the NFC’s sixth seed, the Packers would go on a run that only the players and die-hard Packer fans could have imagined. They began their improbable run against Michael Vick and the third-seeded Philadelphia Eagles, winning by five points in the wild card round.  In the divisional round, they put a 27-point beat down on the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons.  They then defeated the NFC North Division Champion Bears by a touchdown, to advance to the Super Bowl, where they would play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After the Packers jumped out to 7-0 lead, the Steelers got the ball with 3:34 left in the opening quarter. Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger dropped back, was hit and threw a pass short. Collins stepped in front of WR Mike Wallace and picked it off. He proceeded to return it 37 yards for a touchdown causing Packer fans to go crazy. After scoring, he ran to the middle of the field, dropped to his knees and outstretched his arms making for one of the most memorable images from Super Bowl XLV.

The Packers went ahead 21-3, but the Steelers battled back, cutting the lead to 21-17 in the third quarter.  The Pack held on late in the fourth quarter to defeat the Steelers 31-25 thus returning the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown.  Having never trailed the entire Super Bowl and never being behind by more than seven points all year, it turned out to be a remarkable season. And at the forefront of the win was one of the defensive leaders, #36, Nick Collins.

It was a dream come true for him.  A few days after receiving his Super Bowl ring, Collins told me: “It’s unreal. I received the box and I was like, “Wow, we are the World Champions.” And that’s something I’m going to have for the rest of my life and no one can take that away. It’s been a great ride, a great accomplishment and hopefully we can have many more to come.”

In this day and age where pro athletes all have different career paths, Nick’s journey from childhood to World Champion has been a great one. In high school, he played quarterback, running back and defensive back along with being a hoops point guard and hardball centerfielder. When he first got to college, they had him playing linebacker. All of that proves that “Nick the Pick” is an extremely versatile, adaptable athlete.

Late in his first year at Bethune-Cookman, Collins finally switched over to free safety and everything started to click. He went on to have a brilliant college career and was drafted by the Packers in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

Since then, he has fit in nicely with the Packers, contributing every year and always improving. In 2008 he returned three picks for scores, becoming the first safety to do so since 1986.  Collins has only missed three games in his career due to injury, making him one of the most durable and dependable players on the Packers’ roster. Last year he was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl.  This made him the first Packers’ safety to accomplish that feat since Packer legend LeRoy Butler did so from 1996-1998.

When I talked to him at his football camp earlier this summer, it became clear why he’s had so much success. He is a humble, down to earth guy that loves to laugh. He has a good head on his shoulders and just gets the job done. He is extremely generous with his time and is a great role model to kids. He is a sneaker collector but said he usually only wears shoes a couple times then he gives them away to less fortunate kids. When asked what advice he has for kids he said, “First of all make sure to do the right thing in the classroom. Show a lot of respect to others and just be determined. Know what your purpose is. Have a plan and goal then it’s up to you to go achieve that. If you just stick to those things, the sky is the limit for you. You always have to stay positive. If you’re able to wake up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror with a smile on your face, that means you’re going to have a successful day.”

To continue to inspire the youth he has started the Nick Collins Jumpstart Foundation.

You can follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/nickthepick36

Also, keep an eye out for #36 on the field this year as he looks to help the Pack repeat!

Athlete Spotlight: Austen Lane

words // Austen Lane

If you ever drive through my hometown of Iola, WI, you’ll notice a few things: there aren’t any stoplights, there are no fast food restaurants, and it only takes about 3 minutes get through the whole town.  So how does a kid who had only 250-something students in his whole high school make it to the NFL?

Ever since I scored my first touchdown in third grade, I loved the game of football. I knew I wanted to play it as long as possible, but I didn’t have an end goal in mind.  During my high school years, I had a dream of getting a full ride and playing football at the collegiate level.  Although I had a very productive high school career, the Division I colleges weren’t giving me any respect because I supposedly didn’t “play against good competition.”  This gave me a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong — a chip that I still have to this day. It seemed like my dream was lost until a week before signing period, when Murray State University offered me a full scholarship.  With that being my only full ride offer, I took it without hesitation and ironically being the only school that wanted me to play defensive end.  My first two years were mediocre at best.  I started every game except for one, but my numbers were far from expectations.  It was my sophomore exit interview with the defensive line coach that set the path to where I am today.  My coach told me that he was disappointed in me and that he saw something in me that I had to believe in.  I took those words to heart.  It was having the burden of letting my coach down that gave me a new found fire that helped take my training to the next level.  It paid dividends during my next two seasons.

Going into my senior year, I was receiving ten different calls a night from agents and financial advisors.  This started to become overwhelming until I took a piece of my mom’s advice that proved to be one of the most important decisions I have ever made.  I turned my phone off.  She told me, “You deserve to enjoy your senior year, just have fun with your team while you can.”  I didn’t pay any attention to all the draft experts or what people were saying.  Instead, I just focused on my teammates and doing everything possible to try to win a championship.  I knew if I took care of business on the field, then the rest of the NFL distraction would be there when my season was done.  After a late Senior Bowl invite and a good Combine showing, I became the highest drafted player in Murray State history.  I was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars as the 158th pick in the fifth round.

As I write this bio, I am currently going into my second NFL season.  The purpose of me writing this wasn’t to brag of my high school or college stats, hence why I didn’t share them.  My stats didn’t get me to where I am today.  My work ethic, passion, the great people in my life, and having a little faith got me to where I am.  There is no trick or scheme, I am simply a product of my environment.  It doesn’t matter where you come from, so much as where you’re going, but once you get to where you want to go I promise you will have a new appreciation for where you came from.

Anquan Boldin – The Making of a Beast

Anquan Boldin – The Making of a Beast

words // Jordan Hagedorn

Off the field, Anquan Boldin is a soft-spoken, humble, giving, family man. On the field, he is a competitive, forceful, hard-nosed, tackle-breaking beast for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are known traditionally as a loyal, intense, winning franchise. That’s why Anquan fits right in. When talking about the Ravens he says, “We have a great locker room. Organization is first class. The thing that I’m most proud about is that I came to an organization that has a chance to compete for a championship every year. No matter what year it is, the Ravens are gonna be a team to be reckoned with. We have a great core of guys on our team.”

Last season, his first in Baltimore for the Ravens, “Q” led the team with 64 catches, 837 yards and seven touchdowns. Prior to joining the Ravens, Anquan played for the Arizona Cardinals where he was an animal. As a rookie for the Cardinals in 2003, he had 101 catches for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to being named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.

Anquan Boldin

Over the next seven years, Boldin would become one of the premiere wide receivers in the game, racking up 650 catches for 8,357 yards and 51 touchdowns. He has averaged double-digit yards-per-catch every season and was named to the Pro Bowl again in 2006 and 2008. In 2008, he played just 12 games and had 89 catches for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns. He helped carry the Cardinals to the Super Bowl and came within one play of winning it all.

Hard to believe one of the best wide receivers in the league wasn’t always catching passes. Throughout high school and going into college, Anquan was a quarterback. After sitting on the sideline as the third-string quarterback his freshman year, he decided to talk to Florida State coach Bobby Bowden about getting some playing time. He switched to wide receiver and ended up contributing to the Seminoles in a big way, catching 21 TDs in 23 career games.

After the Cardinals drafted Boldin with the 54th overall pick, he has had a super successful career. But until he gets a Super Bowl ring, he will stay hungry. When asked about his competitive nature he says, “For me, I’m just a competitor. I hate to lose. I would do anything not to lose. I guess if you ask me, I’m not supposed to lose at anything and that was my attitude growing up. I would be mad, ready to fight if I lost anything growing up. And my mom was like “you can’t win everything” but in my mind, I’m like I’m supposed to so, that’s always been my mindset.”

Boldin isn’t your average pro athlete. When discussing what makes him different than other wide receivers, he says: “I think the thing that differentiates me from other receivers is just mentality-wise. In this league, the receivers are known as divas (he laughs) — guys that are soft and that’s a statement I really don’t want put on me. I tell a lot of people, ‘I’m not a receiver I’m a football player. Whatever I need to do to win the game I’m more than willing to do.’ ”


Anquan Boldin Eastbay June catalog cover