Matt Smalley has his last final exam in computer science on Friday, and he has one more paper to turn in by next Tuesday. But you can understand if he has his mind on some other things at this point.
At least, as he said on Thursday, “I think I can hold off on job interviews for the time being.”
Smalley, Lafayette’s oft-decorated defensive cornerback, took a big step toward fulfilling a dream that has been in his mind since he started playing football at the age of 5. He signed a three-year contract to become a member of the New York Giants’ 90-man roster.
While this move doesn’t yet make him a sure thing for Sunday-afternoon duty, it’s step in the right direction.
A first-round draft pick – in the Giants’ case, another cornerback, Eli Apple of Ohio State – might have his entire contract guaranteed, but Smalley said, “a minimum rookie like me, it’s only guaranteed if I make the 53-man. I still have to make it to get the money.”
“I fell in love with (football) early,” Smalley said. “I remember sitting on the floor and watching the Eagles and the NFL with my family. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said play in the NFL. It’s pretty exciting and mind-blowing that I have made it this far.”
Exciting? For sure. Mind-blowing ? Not for anyone who watched Smalley play four years in the Leopards’ secondary.
He had his best season in 2013, when the Leopards won the Patriot League championship. He had five interceptions that year and turned in electrifying 98- and 99-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. He was a first-team league all-star as a cornerback and as a return specialist. He repeated as a first-team all-star in his junior and senior seasons, finishing his career with 175 tackles and 25 passes defended.
Smalley worked hard during the offseason with no guarantee that he would get a chance to play professional ball.
“I’m glad I did,” he said. “It was hard this semester working to balance training and school. I trained in Jersey and they got me ready for the pro days. I’m happy where I landed and with the circumstances, so all the work paid off.”
He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at one of those pro days at Temple, and that apparently caught the eye of the Giants’ staff.
The tryout camp last weekend “was pretty much all football,” Smalley said. A lot of drills – individual and special teams – a 7-on-7 period and two team periods. “The reps were limited, so you had to take advantage of whatever you got,” he said.
Obviously, he did it well enough to cause the Giants to want to see more of him.
FISHER GETS A MAKEOVER
The Morning Call has a number of photos on its website (www.mcall.com) chronicling the work on the field in Fisher Stadium. Donna Holden, secretary in the Bourger Varsity Football House” said the field “looks like a big, black hole today.” She has a ringside seat for the work being done.
I’m including two photos, courtesy of Phil LaBella. The new surface should make things safer for everyone involved. While it didn’t look like it, the old surface had deteriorated to the point where some people were saying it was more of a liability than an asset. The difference should be noticeable.