Exclusive Interview with Vyncint Smith: An Underdog Who Continues to Prove People Wrong

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via Dwayne McLemore

Vyncint Smith, a wide receiver out of Limestone College, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans. At Limestone, Smith accrued 93 catches for 1,558 yards and seven touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons. His 84.9 yards per game his senior season ranked second among Division II independent teams, leading to him garnering All-South Atlantic Conference honors.

But this outstanding college career isn’t what caused Smith to garner so much focus from the NFL. Rather it was his athleticism: with his 6’3″, 195 pound frame, blazing speed, and overall explosiveness piquing the interest of scouts. This athleticism was further improved over the offseason because Smith worked out with Velocity Sports Performance in Charlotte, the same place that trained Texans superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney prior to the 2014 NFL Draft.

All of this was showcased during his pro day at the University of South Carolina. At the pro day, Smith had a 4.36 40-yard dash, 39.5 inch vertical jump, and 130 inch broad jump. For comparison, these marks would have all ranked second among wide receivers at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.

The performance was so impressive that he even got approached by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, and had South Carolina coach Will Muschamp say, “I wish he’d been a Gamecock.”

Muschamp’s comment was particularly revealing because Smith, a South Carolina native, had always hoped he could attend the University of South Carolina. But instead, he was only offered as a walk-on and decided to attend Limestone College.

The decision was an interesting one, because Limestone College had just started their football program the same year as Vyncint Smith’s freshman season. Despite this, Smith was extremely successful during his college career, helped build the program for years to come, and most of all proved that Division I teams who’d passed on him had made the wrong decision.

After his aforementioned pro day, Smith gained interest from teams like the Jets, Falcons, Cowboys, Lions, Vikings, 49ers, Chargers, Ravens, Seahawks, and (of course) the Houston Texans. He even visited the Texans in April, meeting with general manager Brian Gaine, talking to wide receivers coach John Perry, and taking a physical.

All of these suitors led many to believe that Smith would be a mid-to-late round draft pick, but instead he wasn’t drafted at all and was immediately signed by a very grateful Houston Texans front office.

Although there are some weaknesses in his game, mainly his route running, his overall game is explosive and tantalizing. In other words, Vyncint Smith is an extremely talented player who could end up being another dangerous weapon for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Without further ado, let’s get into the interview with the man himself, conducted by FPC Texans editor Sam Gubner.

What would you say your strengths as a player are?

Vyncint Smith: As a player, I would say my strengths are that I am a very coachable person and competitive as a receiver. I think I’m quick and fast. I like to perfect what I’m doing, so I think I could eventually run very good/great routes in the system. I feel like I am a smart football player, so I think I can learn pretty well too.

How does it feel to be on the same team as DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson?

Smith: It’s really cool, especially being from the state of South Carolina. Guys like those two, Jadeveon [Clowney], and Bruce Ellington are all looked up to as legends in the state of South Carolina. So it is really awesome to be on the same team as some of my favorite players. 

Do you think you can be like fellow undrafted Division II receiver Keelan Cole and become an immediate contributor to the Texans?

Smith: Yessir. When I played against his team my freshman or sophomore year, I had pretty good games, but he was definitely one of the guys that I looked up to this past year. You know, seeing a Division II guy playing, thinking if he can do it I can do it too. It has been great to see a guy like myself succeed in the NFL.

How would you describe the process of being evaluated by the Texans and countless other NFL teams prior to the draft?

Smith: It has been awesome. I feel like all the way up to the draft, and even going as a free agent, I was in a better position than I thought I would initially be in a year ago. A year ago I was talking to the scouts when they came for my junior day. They said, ‘Work hard during the season, dominate, and hopefully, you can make the team somehow/someway.’ So I feel like a year later I am in a much better position.

But the process has been great, it has been fun. I have talked to a lot of teams, a lot of scouts, and when you start to consistently hear the same thing you gain confidence. But you also know what you need to work on the most.

Your 4.36 40-yard dash, 130-inch broad jump, and 39.5-inch vertical jump all would’ve ranked second among wide receivers at the combine. After this tremendous performance, Will Muschamp said, “I wish he’d been a Gamecock,” and even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick congratulated you. Did this outstanding pro day give you any sense of accomplishment?

Smith: Yes it did. I think it was great because I got to show I am just as athletic as anybody else that is out there. It was also great because I expected to put up all of those numbers and do everything I did, but to actually be able to do it officially/unofficially was awesome. I was very satisfied.

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Out of high school, major programs like South Carolina overlooked you and only offered you as a walk-on. After proving these programs wrong at Limestone, NFL teams also overlooked you in the draft. Does being overlooked like this put a chip on your shoulder and motivate you to succeed?

Smith: Yessir, definitely. I feel like I have more people to prove wrong. I feel like I have to show them what I am really made of and why I can be a one of a kind type of player. It is like being an underdog in a way. You feel like you never have time to rest and yet feel accomplished at the same time. 

You’re from a military background as your father was a drill sergeant. How did that shape you and help you overcome struggles? How did that lead to you having this underdog/positive mentality?

Smith: It helps in two ways. Being young, we moved around a lot, so getting established in a place at first could be rough. You know, when other kids don’t want to play with you and don’t like you that much. I just had to readjust to knowing new people, getting to know a new area, and knowing how people act. I wouldn’t say it was bullying, but it was just hard fitting in all the time.

So I have just learned to overcome what people think, say, or might think initially, especially when they don’t know me. It has helped in that way and, at the same time, I feel like I can stay very focused and do anything I put my mind to.

Describe what you felt when you got that call from the Texans saying they would sign you. What is the story there?

Smith: The story was that before the draft I had talked to Mr. Gaine, the GM, and the wide receivers coach. Since I had visited the Texans two or three weeks before, I was keeping in contact with the wide receivers coach, and I talked to him a little bit during the draft. He would text me a little bit during. And that morning I talked to Mr. Bill O’Brien. They said, ‘If we can’t pick you up during the draft, keep us in mind for after the draft.’ Already, Houston was one of the better fits for my situation if I had fallen to free agency. So I knew during the day whether I went to them during the draft, or if I had to wait until free agency, they were one of my top choices.

And there were other options that I had. My college head coach [Mike Furrey], was the wide receivers coach for the Bears. So that was the hardest decision, between Houston and Chicago, but I knew that Houston was my overall better fit. So it was hard telling my old coach that, ‘I’m not gonna be coming to play with you on the next level.’

What did drive you towards Houston? What made you a good fit for the Texans?

Smith: When I made my visit there two/three weeks before. First of all, just the feeling out there in Houston and everything I went through felt great. It felt right. And getting to know everyone inside of the building was great to do. Also, just getting to talk to the GM about how I should fit into the scheme, how I would play a role on special teams, and where I should come in as a receiver on the roster.

That is what made me most confident because they told me the plan, and even throughout the draft they didn’t pick anybody else in the draft that would hinder my plan or make it close. I felt they kept it pretty straight with me, telling me what would happen if they would pick me or if I fell out of the draft and into free agency. So I feel very comfortable talking to the GM and head coach.

What do you think your role will be on the team in terms of your speed, agility, and athleticism. Where do you think that puts you on the Texans offense and special teams?

Smith: On special teams I feel like I can play anywhere. If it happens to be kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt return, punt coverage, or blocking, I feel like I can play anywhere on special teams. Receiver-wise, we have talked about maybe an outside trying to backup DeAndre [Hopkins] and Will Fuller. I feel like I have and can build the skills to run any routes and have the ability to be a deep threat, run in-between routes, and get open. 

Coming from a Division II program you aren’t raw, but you aren’t completely polished either. How are you looking to become more polished in the league?

Smith: I am definitely looking forward to learning from some guys that are much, much better than me. In high school, I didn’t play with guys that I’ve just straight learned from. I always have learned a little bit from my teammates, but it has never been from a guy who is flat-out better than me. So I definitely look forward to learning all of those techniques from all the older guys, but also I think that it is just a part of finding my game in the NFL and the playing the style that best suits me. 

Is there anything you want to say to Houston Texans fans?

Smith: I want to let them know that I’m a hard worker. I am not going to do anything to make myself look bad or make the organization look bad. Imma go in there, work hard, and build as a player. I think I’m a very open guy and I love to see the support from everybody. I just love being apart of the organization and hope to bring this roster to the top.

We at FPC Texans wish the best of luck in Vyncint Smith’s NFL journey and hope that he continues to prove people wrong as a wide receiver for the Houston Texans.

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