Bulldogs Beat

Roquan Smith, whose strength accidentally took down an NFL assistant, headlined UGA's pro day

Belichick, Patricia lead UGA linebackers at pro day

NFL head coaches Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia led Georgia’s linebackers at Wednesday’s pro day.
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NFL head coaches Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia led Georgia’s linebackers at Wednesday’s pro day.

Paul Pasqualoni’s first mistake of the day was to hold a blocking pad when it was Roquan Smith’s turn in a defensive drill.

The 68-year-old Detroit Lions defensive coordinator stepped in to help out during a linebacker position drill during Georgia’s pro day, which was being led by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Pasqualoni held the blocking pad with Smith, the third to partake in the drill, getting on his knees to strike upward.

Pasqualoni held his own with the two previous players participating. The force from Smith’s hit, however, sent Pasqualoni tumbling to the Georgia indoor practice facility's turf.

“Unfortunately, Coach Pasqualoni went down on the floor a little bit,” Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff quipped afterward.

Smith, the 2017 Butkus Award winner, wasn’t trying to knock Pasqualoni down. After observing teammates Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter go through the drill, he figured it would be fine to utilize his full amount of strength.

Smith laughed about the moment afterward, and even joked that he didn’t apologize for what transpired.

“I had no idea because I’d seen Bellamy and Lorenzo get up there and work him,” Smith said. “He pretty much stayed his balance. I don’t know what I did, if I hit a little awkward or anything to make him flip like that. I was just trying to get good work in and come out of my hips.”

Smith was the headline for Georgia’s star-studded pro day, which also featured many of his talented teammates – including Carter and Bellamy, as well as running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

Following his decision in January to enter the NFL draft, Smith spent the following seven weeks in Arizona training. Following the NFL combine, Smith ventured back to Athens to continue training with Georgia strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair. From here on out, Smith will further himself into "football shape" while taking visits to the aforementioned NFL teams.

The Falcons are picking 26th overall and most likely won’t have the chance to take Smith. But Dimitroff came away impressed with what Smith did in person Wednesday.

“Roquan’s a heck of a football player,” Dimitroff said. “He’s very athletic, very explosive. You see him out there, his urgency stood out. Those are the type of the guys who will do very well in this league. He can drop, he’s got range. He’s a fun guy to watch.”

On Smith’s docket are trips to visit the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts. All four of those teams hold top-12 picks. Smith revealed that he received an invitation to attend the draft in Arlington, Texas, to which he accepted.

While Belichick and Lions head coach Matt Patricia were working Smith through some position drills, Smith said he never became star-struck. He was confident he would do enough to impress the big-name NFL head coaches.

“I know what I can do. I’m confident in my abilities when I come out on the field,” Smith said. “I feel like I can come out and move well, do everything they’re asking, and look pretty good at it. At the end of the day if you’re confident in yourself, why worry? Why worry about it when you can do what it takes?”

While Smith was close to returning for his senior season at Georgia, the fact he was told he would probably be selected in the top-15 of the NFL draft was ultimately a deciding factor.

Head coach Kirby Smart said Smith did a great job in handling his decision to become a pro football player a year early.

“He had all the right people around him, he had a great bubble of support,” Smart said. “He handled it the right way. He was very professional about it. He kept us in the loop. I think, obviously, he made the right decision and he’s going to be picked pretty high. He’s a great player.”

When making his final decision, Smith met with some of Georgia’s coaches and his family, as well as former UGA defensive lineman David Pollack. While their advice was meaningful, he ultimately had to figure out what was best for him.

Having the opportunity to be a top-15 draft pick was way too much to pass on, no matter how much he enjoyed his time at Georgia.

“When you have that type of stuff, as much as you love school, the brotherhood here and the camaraderie we share, you have to do what’s best for you and your family,” Smith said. “I thought that was best for me.”