ATHENS, Ga. — Maurice Smith discovered the beauty of online classes this semester. When you’re training for the NFL draft, but much depends on you staying in school and passing your classes, the ability to take classes on your laptop is a wonderful thing.
Especially when those two classes are biostatistics and gerontology. At a graduate level. All while trying to further your football career.
“It was a bit of a razzle-dazzle trying to do both,” Smith said.
But he must do it, or there will be implications for the Georgia football program he was a part of for only a few months. When Smith secured his graduate transfer from Alabama last summer, the SEC set down stipulations: Smith must stay enrolled toward his master’s degree in Public Health and graduate within two years, or Georgia would be precluded from requesting further graduate transfer waivers.
The headache ended up being worth it for Smith and Georgia. A nickel back, Smith started every game and was named a co-captain after the season. Now he’s pursuing the next step: the NFL.
One struggle after another
That’s becoming another uphill climb,. Smith wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, which is a bad sign for draft status. But any disappointment at still having to prove himself, not having any assurances of being drafted, are tempered by thinking back to where he was last year. He and Alabama were fighting over his transfer, and he felt like he didn’t have a home.
“Looking back on it, not having a place to stay, not really having a place to work out, having to do it all on my own, not having a trainer, going through spring but not getting a (summer) workout. I still think I’m blessed,” Smith said. “Whether I get a shot at getting drafted or free agency I’m going to still work hard and make a team.”
Smith said the biggest emphasis from scouts was on his times, and then setting up individual interviews and workouts. He said he ran around a 4.4 in the 40 — Georgia didn’t release pro day result. He said he wished he had run faster, but that scouts thought he would run a 4.5. He scheduled a workout with the Falcons, who had a small army of coaches and scouts at Georgia’s pro day.
The upside for Smith is his versatility. He was Georgia’s nickel back, but also played safety and cornerback at Alabama. His intelligence and intangibles are also attractions, as Georgia coach Kirby Smart will attest to scouts, having coached him his entire career at both schools.
“Mo’s a high-character, tough kid. All these guys that come and ask about, that’s all they talk about, is how smart is he,” Smart said, then pivoting to the football part: “Can he play multiple positions. He got to prove all those things. He played on special teams. Ultimately I don’t know how he’ll be drafted, that’ll depend on his speed, that’ll depend on lots of things.”
Smith spent the time since Georgia’s season ended training mostly in his hometown of Houston, and also trained in Athens. If he ends up making the NFL, Smart said there will be a waiver process in place so Smith doesn’t necessarily have to take classes this fall.
“The commissioner is aware of that,” Smart said. “He understands that’s the kid’s dream, that’s what he wants to do. So he’ll take that into consideration.”
Biostatistics, by the way, is about as difficult as it sounds. It deals with data relating to living organisms.
“It’s a lot of numbers,” Smith said, smiling, “And I’m not a numbers guy, honestly.”