Due to a late start in football, Ravens fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith may be just scratching the surface of his talent.
Smith was a basketball player in high school, and did not play football until the 12th grade.
“I was a good basketball player in my community, and I thought that was what I wanted to do with my life was play basketball,” said Smith, a native of Greenville, Alabama. “But I figured that out my last year of high school that basketball wasn’t for me.
“My senior year of high school I played AAU basketball. I was a center and the guys were like seven feet tall. I was like, ‘Man, no rebounds.’ I couldn’t get any rebounds so I was like, ‘Man, I have to come up with a backup plan.’’’
Football was the backup plan that led Smith to East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss., to the University of Kentucky, to the Ravens. The Ravens are intrigued by Smith’s potential as a pass rusher at outside linebacker. They envision him stepping into the role vacated by Pernell McPhee, who went to the Bears during free agency.
Basketball is a favorite topic of conversation in the Ravens’ locker room, so Smith should fit right in. But his decision to focus on football instead of basketball has worked out very well.