One of the names that’s frequently on the lips of those reporting on Kansas City Chiefs training camp these days is cornerback Tremon (Tre) Smith, the Chiefs’ sixth-round pick out of Central Arkansas.
Plays like this one from Thursday’s practice are drawing attention.
Who ya got? Sammy Watkins vs. Tre Smith pic.twitter.com/XFeBChCPrY— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 2, 2018
If not this one — which would draw a flag in a game but shows Smith’s tenacity.
Who ya got? Josh Crockett vs. Tre Smith pic.twitter.com/9LIu1GLWUm— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 2, 2018
Smith, 22, was Alabama’s AAA Player Of The Year as a high school quarterback, and brings that experience to the cornerback position — allowing him to anticipate what the opposing passer might do. He’s also blazing fast, with a 4.3 time in the 40. Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub says Smith’s speed is second only to Tyreek Hill on the squad.
Speaking to the media following Thursday’s practice, Smith first gave Hill his due.
“He’s a cheetah, so you can’t even compare us. I just stay in my lane,” he said.
But when pressed by a reporter about what kind of an animal he represented, Smith noted that being a little heavier than Hill, maybe a lion would be appropriate.
“A lion’s pretty fast — although not as fast as a cheetah. And a lion is more dangerous.”
Smith said that as a professional, he’s learned a lot more about the whole picture than he ever did in college — learning receiver route trees and how the other defensive players work as a whole unit.
He’s been looking to experienced vets like Kendall Fuller for guidance — but no one more often than his hero and now fellow teammate, Eric Berry.
“I looked up to him ever since he was at Tennessee,” he said. ”I wore number 14 [Berry’s college number] in high school because of him. I’m picking his brain — asking him how he studies, following him around on the field like a lost puppy - whatever it takes. He’s a Pro Bowler. Why not?”
His first meeting with Berry was memorable.
“I was on my visit here, and I had just been talking about Eric Berry with one of the scouts. I was walking in the locker room, and he was walking out. My eyes got big... but I controlled myself really well.”
If history is any guide, late-round picks like Smith have a better chance of making the team if they can contribute on special teams. For now, Toub says that Tyreek Hill will remain the team’s punt returner, but Smith is clearly in the running to be a kickoff returner for the Chiefs this season.
And that’s OK with Smith.
“Any time I have the chance to have the ball in my hands I’m going to be excited,” he explained. “My adrenaline is really going to be pumping. I’m learning from the best special teams coach there is — an assistant head coach, and a great guy, an amazing guy. He’s teaching me some little things. Always tells me to hit the holes at full speed, so it’s harder for people to tackle me.”
In fact, Toub said on Monday that “the way [Smith] catches the ball and gets to the top speed so fast, it’s pretty impressive. Can’t wait to see him in a game.”
That sentiment was echoed by head coach Andy Reid on Monday.
“I’m curious to see how [Smith] does in the games. He’s a talented kid. He has skills as a returner, and he’s doing a really nice job as a corner, too.”
Tre Smith is equally anxious to get on the field.
“That’s when the whistles will be blowing, and we can make tackles. I’m ready for it to be real!”