When the Kansas City Chiefs selected cornerback Tremon Smith out of Central Arkansas in the sixth round of this year’s draft, I’ll admit I didn’t think much of it.
Though his 4.3 40-yard dash caught my eye, the Chiefs were calling him a special teams player who had a good skill set they could perhaps develop.
Then I watched him in OTAs, and I loved what I saw.
Smith, 22, showed the as-advertised ball skills and became an early option for the Chiefs as a kick returner.
Smith has continued that progress at training camp.
“He’s got great speed,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Sunday. “He’s a 4.3 guy, legit. He’s fast. He’s not as fast as Tyreek (Hill)— that’s a whole other level, but he’s very, very fast. He’s probably our second-fastest player. You’ve seen some talent ... You don’t have to see a lot of clips to see talent. We noticed that, and the scouts did a good job of evaluating this guy and brnging him in and we’re glad we got him in the sixth round.”
In his final two seasons at Central Arkansas, Smith returned 38 punts, but only two kickoffs. Punt returning is one area in which Chiefs scout Willie Davis noticed Smith’s speed.
“When he breaks it, you weren’t catching him,” Davis said after the draft. “You can see it, especially on the punt return things he did and the make-up speed. If he gets beat, he has the speed to recover very well. You saw all that.”
Unfortunately for Smith, the Chiefs already have a punt returner.
Dave Toub wouldn’t give me a #Chiefs kick returner, so I asked if Tyreek is still the punt returner.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 29, 2018
Dave: “Oh yeah! Tyreek is by far the best punt returner we have. I want him back there at all times."
But the fact that Smith hasn’t done much kick return is actually working to his advantage.
Because Toub has no way of knowing one way or another, he thinks he could have something great on his hands.
“What makes me so excited about him is the fact that he hasn’t done a lot of it,” Toub said. “We feel like he’s just scratching the surface—he gets better and better every day. He’s a real good catcher, a really good first step, and you never know what a guy’s going to do until he has live bullets coming down trying to tackle him, so we have to wait and see.”
Before Central Arkansas, Smith was an all-state high school quarterback in Alabama. But since he was 5 feet 10, colleges were more interested in transitioning him to a defender.
At rookie minicamp in May, Smith told reporters he never lost his love of putting points on the board, and that’s why he embraces special teams and returning.
“Rookies make their names on special teams their first few years so I am willing to do whatever it takes,” Smith said. “I want that ball in my hand. Every time I get the ball in my hand I am trying to score.”
He’ll get that opportunity in Kansas City, and by camp’s end, he may win the job.