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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Shaq Smith, LB, University of Maryland

Shaq Smith Maryland NFL Draft 2021 Interview
Shaq Smith is a versatile LB that played at Maryland and previously won 2 National Titles with Clemson. Unfortunately, he sat out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Yet, he was able to display his skills at the College Gridiron Showcase. He recently sat down with NFL Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: Shaq Smith
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 237
  • Position: LB
  • College: University of Maryland
  • Twitter: Nextlevel_shaq
  • Instagram: teamshaq


Pro Day Results:
Bench: 22 reps
Vertical: 30”
Broad Jump: 9’2”
40 yard dash: 4.77
Short Shuttle: 4.30
3-Cone: 7.20

Talk about your experience as a student. What is your major/minor? Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?
I was able to get my Sports Management Degree at Clemson in 3 and a half years. While I was there, I also had a summer internship with Cisco Systems. I won first place in a video presentation about what the company offers. I am only one class away from obtaining my Master’s at Maryland in Entrepreneurship. I also participated in the Alpha Phi Alpha. I built great relationships through that fraternity. We were able to do local outreaches such as after school activities with young kids.

What do your teammates say is your best quality?
Leadership. Leading isn’t always about being loud and yelling. It’s more about doing things the right way and being a good example. I’m also very personable and able to connect with many different people.

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skill set?
I see myself as the guy who makes a name for himself and special teams and works his way up the depth chart. I can easily come in as needed at all 3 LB positions. I can cover TEs and RBs, defend the run in the box and also rush off the edge. I did the latter during my time at Maryland. I can plug and play wherever I’m needed.

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?
Lamar Jackson. He’s the obvious answer. I played against him for 2 years. He has the ability to change the game at any given moment. He’s a great overall athlete and an underrated passer.

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?
During my time at Clemson, the one player that sticks out is Christian Wilkins. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He knew how to be a leader on and off the field. When we went through our QB change, he was one of the first guys to welcome Trevor and support him.

At Maryland, the player that impresses me the most is Jake Funk. Coming back from his injuries and excelling as a player is impressive enough as is. Yet, he’s a natural born leader that puts in the extra work and stays positive. He’s a glass half-full kind of guy.

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.
I came into Clemson as a big recruit, so having to sit out my first year was a bit of a challenge. It was a learning curve because I had never been in a stable football program. Even growing up, I went through multiple schools in my life. I quickly got comfortable with Clemson though. My experience there was a heck of a ride.

This past year, I got COVID-19 during the season which shut me down for the whole year. My senior season obviously didn’t go as planned. We had already fought so hard to be able to play despite the pandemic, and I was struggling just to stay healthy. There were so many protocols to go through. It was like it was never going to end. But I knew my health and safety was first. Towards the end of my bout with COVID, I lost my sense of taste and smell, but I was able to battle through it.

Making the decision to declare for the draft wasn’t an easy one. I knew that I had the opportunity to come back and play another year if I wanted to. I know that I have yet to play my best ball. I just felt like I had exhausted my college career and that it was time to move on. I got the chance to participate in the College Gridiron Showcase, and prove to many scouts and evaluators that I can play this game. I’m looking forward to what the future holds as I pursue my dream as an NFL player.

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?
I participated in track & field in high school, yet that was mostly just to stay in shape. I would probably play basketball or baseball. I played baseball a lot growing up. I’m left-handed, so they always tried to get me to be the pitcher every now and then.

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?
I’m most proud that I was able to graduate and walk across the stage. I got a chance to share that with my family. That’s what my mom wanted.

As a player, winning a National Title is what we all dream, and I was fortunate to do that twice. That’s definitely my biggest achievement.

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.
Two plays come to mind. I had a sack against Notre Dame in the playoff game. We dialed up a blitz and I was able to run over the RB to make the play. The other play that sticks out was during our 2018 game against Duke. We had studied their offense all week and knew they liked to utilize the RB in the passing game. There was a 3rd and long play where their RB, Deon Jackson, was out wide as the #1 receiver. They thought it was a mis-match because I was going to be covering him. The RB ran a fly route, and I ran step for step with him and broke up the pass. That play really showed my versatility and my ability to cover.

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?
I grew up a Colts fan. Players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are some of my favorites. Their work ethic and how they go about the process is elite. I admire athletes like Tom Brady and Lebron James, and I like studying why they have so much success. As far as my position, I model my game after players like Devin White, Blake Martinez and Lavonte David.

Who is your favorite music artist? What gets you pumped before a game?
My favorite artists include guys like J Cole and Drake. I usually just like to listen to chill music before a game, maybe some old school R&B.

What is your favorite comfort food?
One of my favorite snacks is Reese’s Peanut Butter Sticks. I just love ‘em.

Do you have a favorite movie, TV show or actor?
I like watching “Last Chance U.” That’s one of my favorite TV shows. Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry are some of my favorite actors.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Any secret talents?
I like to cook. My mom taught me how to cook at a young age. I also like to play video games such as War Zone. I’m also into fashion.

Why do you play football? Who or what motivates you the most?
I play because football was my outlet and escape as a kid. This game has taken me farther in life than I could have imagined and put me in the situation that I’m in now.

My mom has kept me passionate. She is my why. Whenever things get hard, I remember all the sacrifices that she’s made in order for me to get to where I’m at. She’s been there every step of the way. I know that I have the opportunity to make a difference in my family’s lives and hopefully show my mom the love and appreciation that she deserves.

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