Nolan Smith finally got the chance to share his freshman story with the media on Saturday night.
That was made possible because of the SEC’s open locker room policy for both teams after the championship game.
It was the same ol’ Nolan from the recruiting trail. That big smile. The same confidence and strength and glee that rests over every answer.
“I just think that you don’t play the game for yourself,” he said. “You play the game for the 10 other people that are out there with you. At the end of the day if you play for everybody’s goals then your individual goals will be set for the moment.”
“So you shouldn’t play for yourself. I even tell my little brother that and he plays baseball. That’s supposed to be the most individual sport ever. I say you don’t ever want to play for yourself. You don’t want to be that selfish person that is like ‘don’t ever ask him to do something’ because that carries over in life. My roommates call me and say they got a flat tire they know that I am going to come right away just because of the way that I carry myself and the things that I do.”
Some of the things he said will sound the same as the information coming from the mouth of any highly-touted freshman. Smith’s way of presenting it just makes it seem like there’s a heaping of barbecue sauce drizzled over a second plate at the big family cookout.
That’s the same player who was rated on the 247Sports Composite as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect coming out of IMG Academy in 2019.
It was a night DawgNation will likely want to file away for a long winter’s nap. Yet Smith’s tone served as a reminder that a potential Chase Young talent will be in Athens for at least two more seasons.
How does he assess his first year? Smith kept using the word “learning” over and over.
“I’ve just got a lot of improvement to do,” he said.”I think I could have had a better year. “I’ve got things to improve on.”
Smith now has 16 tackles through his first 13 games as a Bulldog. That stat line will include 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for losses. He’s 10th on the team in tackles for losses. The naturally gifted pass rusher is also in a five-way tie for second place on the team with his 2.5 sacks.
While the Bulldogs did fall by 27 points to LSU, Smith was able to place things in the proper light for a student-athlete who wants to excel in the classroom every bit as much as he does sacking Heisman Trophy contenders like LSU’s Joe Burrow.
“I took a lot of rigorous courses and everything like that,” he said. “I still have a final to take when I get back home. My final Tuesday is at seven o’clock.”
It was a different conversation than when Justin Fields met the media for the first time after the loss to Alabama in the championship game a year ago.
This former 5-star flocks to his teammates to spread his energy and support at all times. Whether he is on the field or amid pre-game drills.
If he was putting on a face about how much he loves being a Bulldog, then he has a bright future in the acting arena, too.
“I told my little brother if you just want to be a normal student, man Georgia is the place to be,” he said. “I love it to death.”
Nolan Smith: Breaking down his first year as a Bulldog
Check out the featured video above this post. The viewer can really get a sense of his personality in that clip.
Smith touched on a lot of topics during his first year after enrolling last January in Athens, including:
- His relationship with roommates Trezmen Marshall and Travon Walker
- His studies as a civil engineer in the classroom at UGA
- How he wants to open up his own engineering firm after his football playing days are over
- His academic rivalry with fellow former 5-star Nakobe Dean as engineering students in Athens
- How he felt he was being developed his first year at UGA with Dan Laning