Brian Smith personified the passion of Notre Dame Football throughout his four-year career. Smith was a four-year starter who really put himself on the map when he intercepted a pass off of then Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and took it back for a touchdown.
From there, Brian went on to be a household name amongst fans for Notre Dame. Now that his time in South Bend is over, Smith has moved on to preparing for the NFL Draft where he took the time to talk with me about his preparations and also his tenure at the University of Notre Dame.
TD: How is everything going preparing for the Draft?
BS: Everything is going well, after the Bowl game I got a little time off, was able to go home and catch up with my family. I was able to get up here to Chicago on January 10th to start training and preparing for what I hope to be a successful career in the NFL.
TD: You talked about the Bowl game and now you're leaving Notre Dame. You had a great run at the end of the season with beating Utah, going into Yankee Stadium defeating Army, beating USC in the Coliseum, then winning the Sun Bowl over the Miami Hurricanes. What are your thoughts on the next generation of Notre Dame football players picking up where you and your fellow seniors left off?
BS: I've been telling some of the guys from my class that we left the program in better shape than when we inherited it. Coming in my freshman year going 3-9, then 7-6, then 6-6 and then seeing the kind of results that we made for all the seniors and we felt that was a great foundation we left for the younger guys.
I'm excited to see where they go this next season. I think this is the first time in I don't know how long the media is saying Notre Dame can win ten games next season and that says a lot for my senior class.
TD: Have you heard anything about how the freshmen are doing?
BS: I've heard a little bit from Gary Gray. He says those guys are doing great, these guys are supposed to be in high school at this point so not everything is perfect. I was able to see a video on Louis Nix Facebook page; Nix is a guy who is going to go off. On the scout team he always gave guards and centers problems.
TD: Brian let's look back to your time at Notre Dame. I remember I was in attendance at the Washington game your Junior year, when you guys were backed up against the goal line. You brought your teammates together and told them we are not going to let them score. Is there one play in particular from your college career that you want scouts to see?
BS: We were in camp the summer going into my junior year. We were running a goal line drill where if the defense got three stops we won, but if the offense scored three times they won. The offense kept running trick plays on us and scored on every one of them.
I pulled all the guys together and everyone was getting upset and throwing stuff. I told them "Guys, it only takes one play. Who is going to make it?"
So I said if no one is going to make that play I'm going to make it. Coach dialed up a blitz for us, I shot right into the backfield, the ball was handed off to Robert Hughes and I smacked him in the backfield and they didn't score from that play on and ended up winning that goal line plan.
From that point on I showed those guys that I can be a leader on the field and I can be counted on to make a play.
TD: Through your career you played every linebacker position and played a few different schemes with all the different defensive coordinators. Do you feel the experience of playing each position more helps you or hurts you going into the draft?
BS: It definitely helps me a lot. The NFL is a business, you only have a 53 man roster but only 45 are active. I've been selling to scouts with my experience playing each position you can use me to save roster spots that I can save roster spots for you.
Maybe instead of taking three starters and three backups, you can take the three starters and one backup with me being able to backup all the positions so other positions can use those roster spots to add depth to their areas. Also, just the overall knowledge of the game.
Being able to play middle linebacker and coach who knew the system. Talking with Sergio Brown he says the coach (Jon) Tenutas system is right up to par to how NFL defenses run their system. I was able to get a good grasp on coaching Tenutas' system, I knew it inside and out making all the calls, checks and adjustments.
Working with coach Tenuta, he taught me a lot about reading the offenses as far as the formations they line up in. This gave me a step ahead on everyone else where I could go ahead and jump on a play due to the knowledge I gained from playing all these different positions and thanks to picking the brain of coach Tenuta.
TD: Your dad played football at Notre Dame as well. How much influence did your father have on you committing to Notre Dame?
BS: I'd say before my senior year in high school, just being around a Notre Dame guy I saw the benefits of Notre Dame, post football.
My father is a very successful business man. Runs a janitorial company in Kansas City, works for Sprint, and works for a company that helps the collegiate athletes transition into the real world.
But also football Saturdays he always tuned in and we always watched Notre Dame. I grew up a fan of Notre Dame. I remember on Saturdays eating Smokeys Hot Dogs watching the Notre Dame game.
Growing up a Notre Dame fan then actually getting the chance to play there was always a dream of mine, though at first it didn't look like it'd end up that way.
Coach (Mike) Haywood had called my father and let them know that they wouldn't be offering me a scholarship. I was upset of course, but I didn't let it destroy me, so I went ahead and took an offer from the University of Iowa.
Two weeks before signing day Notre Dame had called. Coach (Corwin) Brown had just got hired. We sent Notre Dame another highlight tape from my senior year. Coach Brown like what I offered and they extended me a scholarship offer.
I didn't feel right at first with them having said no to me the first time. Then I took a visit to campus and coach Weis told me we are going to be depending on you. Coach Brown is going to be bringing in a new system that you will fit into perfectly.
After hearing that and talking it over with my family, they asked me "what does Iowa offer that Notre Dame doesn't?" That one little piece of advice was all it took to switch my commitment over to Notre Dame.
TD: My last question to you Brian. What is Brian Smith going to miss most about playing Saturdays in South Bend?
BS: The one thing I'll miss most about playing Saturday's at Notre Dame is the atmosphere. Playing at Notre Dame I had the opportunity to play in a lot of big time games and big time atmospheres.
Notre Dame stadium doesn't hold 110,000 people, they don't sell alcohol in the stands, but there is just something about the atmosphere you just feel it's electric.
The most electrifying experience I'd say I've been a part of at Notre Dame stadium was the opening game this past season against Purdue. There was an electricity in the air that we all felt.
I wish I could have the opportunity to do it again, but it's now the next chapter of my life. I'll always miss Notre Dame, but now it's on to new and different chapters in my life.