Despite the fact Malcolm Smith didn’t go to the Combine, despite the eating disorder, the Seahawks chose him in the seventh round of the 2011 draft.
Every day Malcolm Smith worked out hard and waited for his email to ping or his phone to buzz or a text to arrive inviting to him the 2011 NFL Draft Combine, the great February audition before April’s selection weekend.
Smith sweated through the tedium of individual drills, knowing that his chance to follow his brother Steve into the NFL was coming quickly.
Sure his senior year at USC hadn’t been the exhilarating showcase season he had hoped for and the eating disorder that had bothered him for several years was common knowledge among the hyper-critical general managers and scouts, who sometimes assess college athletes as if they thoroughbreds at the Keeneland Yearling Sale.
But Smith knew in his heart that if he just got the chance at the combine he could show the league just how valuable a linebacker he could become. Like so many athletes at this tipping point in their careers, Smith only asked for a chance.
“I was waiting weeks and weeks for an invitation and it never came,” Smith said. “I even called the NFL myself. There was a point where I had an agent, but I wasn’t relying on him. I felt like I had to call, but finally I was told I didn’t make it.”
Alone in a hotel room outside Los Angeles, Smith wept when he got the news. He called his mother. He called his brother, St. Louis wide receiver Steve Smith.
“I was just hurting,” Smith said. “My whole life I dreamed of the opportunity to show some things on that level and when it didn’t happen, that really hurt me. It felt like, whatever I had done (in college) just wasn’t enough. That still bothers me to this day.”
His brother told him to stay focused. He reminded Malcolm there were dozens of undrafted free agents playing in the league.
“You have the talent,” Steve told him.
And Malcolm had a chip on his shoulder, a chip that should almost be part of the Seattle Seahawks’ logo.
Every NFL team has players who believe they’ve been disrespected. Every team has players with chips on their shoulders; players with something to prove; players who think that if they just get their chances.