Heisman is history for QB Smith

Ravens draft pick not worried about adapting to NFL

May 05, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

After being drafted in the fifth round by the Ravens last weekend, Troy Smith knows he has to quiet the critics who say he won't make it as a pro quarterback.

When his NFL career informally began yesterday at the team's rookie minicamp, Smith learned of another hurdle to overcome - history.

Few Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks survive in the NFL, much less thrive.

Such flops as Danny Wuerffel (1996), Chris Weinke (2000), Eric Crouch (2001) and Jason White (2003) - all of whom are out of the league - have proved that the best player in college football often struggles at the next level.

In fact, just three Heisman quarterbacks (Vinny Testaverde, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart) have become quality starters in the league during the past 30 years, and they were the only ones drafted in the top 10.

"It won't put any pressure on me," Smith said after his first practice yesterday. "That happened for a reason. We had a good college season, but it's not about that anymore. It's about the Baltimore Ravens and what I can do to help this team and this organization. So the Heisman Trophy has nothing to do with it."

The only time Ravens coach Brian Billick has dealt with a Heisman quarterback was when the Minnesota Vikings drafted Miami's Gino Torretta in the seventh round in 1993.

Torretta finished his college career with a 26-1 record and won the national championship after the 1991 season. But he managed just 16 throws in three NFL games and retired in 1996.

Like Torretta, Smith was a proven winner in college, with a 25-3 record as a starter.

"I don't know what that phenomena is. I'll leave it to somebody smarter than I am to figure out why that happened that way," Billick said. "You have to be very careful not to prejudge it. That just means that's what has been; it doesn't mean that's what will be."

Smith had an uneven start as a Raven, throwing some passes into the ground and others behind receivers. But he seemed to pick up on the concepts quickly, answering the coaches' questions correctly between plays.

"I think what stands out the most to everybody in the United States is he's the Heisman Trophy winner," offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel said. "He's eager to learn. He's not coming in here as though he's proven something. He's coming in here wanting to prove something."

Smith has to prove he's not like the Heisman quarterbacks who failed in the NFL.

Of the 12 quarterbacks - not counting Smith - who won the Heisman Trophy since 1971, three didn't play a down in the NFL (Crouch, White and Charlie Ward) and four others threw more interceptions than touchdowns in their career.

"I think Leinart and Palmer have done well because they were in that kind of offense [in college]," Neuheisel said. "If you look historically at Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, they have not all been from pro-style, multi-protection-style offenses.

"If you look at Troy later in the season, there was a lot of throwing in the offense. This isn't going to be so far off for him. He's got the fastball. Now, we have to work on some other pitches."

At Ohio State, Smith used his powerful arm to complete 62.7 percent of his passes, throwing 54 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

There are questions about whether he can succeed in the NFL because of his height (6 feet) and long delivery.

"The guy could play in the NFL for a long time," said Ron Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback who is now an analyst for Monday Night Football. "I don't think he's a starter for a long period of time, but he gives you a lot of juice as a backup quarterback."

Smith called his start with the Ravens "a humble one."

Instead of competing to be the starter, he's battling to become the No. 3 quarterback behind Steve McNair and Kyle Boller. He's even wearing No. 11 instead of his usual No. 10, which is the uniform number of reserve quarterback Drew Olson.

Then, in his first meeting with the Baltimore media, he was asked whether he would make the final cut - a tough question for a quarterback who is five months removed from winning the Heisman.

"Not making the team is something that never crossed my mind," Smith said. "I'm wearing this [jersey] for a reason, and I'm here for a reason."

Notes -- Yesterday was the first practice for first-round pick Ben Grubbs, who said it was a smooth first day as the Ravens' right guard. "I think it went well," he said. "We spent a lot of time in the meeting room, and we spent a lot of time back in the hotel studying the plays. So I knew pretty much everything that we had installed today." ... When asked whether the Ravens had submitted a contract extension proposal to linebacker Terrell Suggs, general manager Ozzie Newsome said only, "We're negotiating." ... Former Ravens secondary coach Donnie Henderson, who was let go as the Detroit Lions' defensive coordinator at the end of the season, dropped by team headquarters yesterday. Billick said it was a casual visit and that he isn't planning to add Henderson to the staff. ... The Ravens will conclude their two-day rookie minicamp today.


A list of the undrafted rookies signed by the Ravens is on Page 4C.

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