Brett Smith

Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith poses for a picture on July 24, 2013, at University of Wyoming in Laramie. Smith, an unheralded prospect from Salem, Ore., left UW early to enter the upcoming NFL Draft. Feeling snubbed again after not receiving an invitation to a key workout for draft prospects -- the NFL Scouting Combine -- Smith is focusing on UW's pro day, scheduled for March 13 in Laramie.

Brett Smith expects you to doubt him.

Go ahead; he dares you. He's seen it before, and he'll see it again -- probably sooner rather than later. Tell him he's too small to compete in the NFL, just like the nameless, faceless Twitter critics with the seething 140-character evaluations. Point out his low release point, or his concussions, or the fact that he set all those records at a lowly Mountain West school galaxies away from the pageantry of the SEC.

Wyoming? Where's that?

Brett Smith has seen and heard it all. When you promise he'll never adjust to taking snaps under center, make sure to tag him in the tweet. If you feel so inclined to pick apart his game tape like it's a blooper reel, you're really doing him a favor.

While all the naysayers snicker, Smith digs in. He grows stronger.

"I’m trying to impress teams and not draft analysts. At the end of the day, none of them are going to draft you," Smith said from his training complex in California. "They’re just there to talk and try to make evaluations. And the bottom line is that a lot of them are wrong 90 percent of the time.

"I try not to focus a whole lot on it, but obviously with Twitter nowadays you see something, and there’s some nice things I see about me…and then a lot of bad stuff. So the stuff that I have seen, most of the time I’m like, ‘All right, it doesn’t matter.’ It doesn’t get to me. But obviously there’s also an attitude of ‘Geez, this person says that, and it’s another person to prove wrong.’”

That list is growing by the day. Smith -- the 6-foot-2, 211-pound Wyoming quarterback who scribbled his name all over the school's record books during his three seasons in Laramie -- was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, which kicks off without him on Saturday.

There were 335 invitations to hand out, and his must have been lost in the mail. In all, 98 underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft. Smith is one of only 13 that won't compete in Indianapolis. While he's ranked by most draft analysts as one of the 2014 draft class' top 10 quarterbacks, 19 were invited ahead of him.


Smith's reaction to the combine snub is a complex one. He was surprised...but he wasn't surprised.

"I was hearing talk before the combine that there was a realistic possibility I wasn’t going to be picked," Smith said. "I was kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? Again?’ It’s just like high school, where a lot of people tell me I can’t do it."

A recap of Smith's journey to today: The scrawny kid with the fiery attitude and the deceptively elusive running style dominated the prep scene at West Salem High School in Oregon. But instead of grading him by his numbers, Division I colleges dismissed him based on his diminutive frame.

They judged the book by its cover, then refused to buy the book.

Instead of landing in a college football hotbed, he joined an island of misfit toys at Wyoming. And for three years, the Cowboys scored a lot of points and turned a lot of heads.

Why? Because they said he couldn't.

"That’s why we had so much fun at Wyoming, because I didn’t pay attention to all the Rivals.com or Scout.com people ranking me a two-star or one-star [prospect], or all the coaches and offensive coordinators that said I should consider D-II or D-III," Smith said.

"None of that matters when you go to work with the mindset that you can achieve it. That’s why we were productive offensively at Wyoming, because I had the confidence to go out there and play and we had other guys with that same attitude.”

So, excuse Smith if the verbal jabs are little more than glancing blows. In fact, he might just thank them for pouring gasoline on an inferno that's been blazing his entire career.

"He handles it the way he should -- which is to work," Smith's father, Kevin Smith, said. "Some guys, they’d let it bury them or discourage them. That’s why some guys quit. They just don’t want to deal with it anymore.

"But it just makes him battle that much harder and get that much stronger.”

With the combine coming and going without him this weekend, Smith is putting the full brunt of his preparation into dazzling scouts at his pro day in Laramie on March 13. Currently, Smith is training alongside Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles and Washington quarterback Keith Price at EXOS in Carlsbad, Calif.

He lifts weights and runs through speed workouts twice a day, studies film of pro concepts as well as NFL defenses, and sharpens his footwork and throwing technique with Chicago Bears quarterback Jordan Palmer.

While some have pondered whether his draft stock is slipping, Smith has done nothing but improve. And his resolve hasn't wavered, either.

“Obviously it was hard leaving everybody at Wyoming -- my teammates. I miss them. But at the same time, from the moment I declared to now, I just feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do," Smith said. "Whether I get drafted or I don’t get drafted, honestly I feel like this was the decision I was supposed to make and the journey I was supposed to embark on.

"I’m working as hard as I can to fulfill the dream that I have for myself.”

That dream will either find its footing or trickle down the drain, depending largely on Smith's performance at Wyoming's pro day. He plans to meet with former teammate and fellow draft hopeful Robert Herron two to three weeks prior to the tryout to begin re-developing their chemistry. The two will then return to Laramie a week prior to the event, where they will throw and catch every day until March 13.

And on that day, Smith plans to wow the scouts and stun the doubters -- the ones who said he shouldn't start on his high school team, that he couldn't play on the division I level, that he left too soon, that the NFL is just a shiny, unachievable mirage.

He hasn't forgotten about any of them. And he can't wait to prove them wrong.

"What I’ve really learned from times like these are that when you’re trying to achieve something, there’s always going to be background noise. There’s always going to be people talking about it," Smith said.

"It doesn’t matter if every single person in the entire world says you can’t do something. If you believe you’re going to do it and you work for it, you can."

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Reach reporter Mike Vorel at Mike.Vorel@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeVorel.


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