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Transcript: Lee Smith Conference Call

TE Lee Smith talks with the media after being drafted by the New England Patriots 159th overall.

Q: What were your thoughts on getting the call from the Patriots?

LS: I was actually in my backyard playing baseball with my three year old. I got the call, I walked inside with my wife...It's a dream come true. My father played in the NFL. It's been a dream of mine my whole life. To play at the highest level of competition in this sport and just to get that opportunity and to be able to bring my son, my daughter and my wife along for the ride, it was just so humbling and so rewarding. I can't explain the emotions that went through my body.

Q: How much has your father helped you through this process in that he does have this experience?

LS: My dad actually passed away last year. But throughout my whole life, he kind of prepared me for most of the mental aspect of the next level. He always told me that it's pretty much even ground as far as the physical attributes go. Once you get to that level, as long as you continue to work hard and be as mentally strong as you can be, then you have a good chance to get through it. Every step of the way in my athletic career to this point, he had already gone through. So having him there to lean on and ask questions and when something would go wrong and something would go right, have him there to say, 'This is how I handled it, and it was the right way,' or 'This is how I handled it, and maybe I should have handled it differently.' Having his help was something that I'll never take for granted and something that I wish I had today. I'd give anything to be able to call him and talk about being a Patriot.

Q: Can you walk us through the move from Tennessee to Marshall?

LS: Yes, ma'am. I'd known Coach [Phillip] Fulmer my whole life. My dad played for Coach Fulmer at Tennessee. It was kind of a no-brainer situation for me. I was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee here where I'm living now with my family. And that's where I always wanted to play college football. There was a bump in the road. It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. I moved to Marshall, met a lot of great people, met a lot of great men in my life that kind of helped me become a man. And I had my two children there. Me and my wife got married while I was at Marshall. So, I think something that seemed to be a negative at the time turned into a very great positive. I don't think I'd be a Patriot right now if it wouldn't have happened.

Q: As a tight end, did you get a chance to see what the collection of NE tight ends were able to do last year with Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Alge Crumpler?

LS: Absolutely, it fires me up to see two and three and four tight end sets on the field. I think that's something it's very special when a team can do that. That definitely makes mismatches. You've got Hernandez and Gronkowski and Crumpler – there all very different players, but at the same time with all three of them on the field, it's a nightmare for a defensive coordinator, for any team in the NFL. I'm humbled to be put in a group with those three guys. And I'm excited to pick their brains and hopefully get a little knowledge from each one of them. I know Crumpler has been in the league for a long time. I remember watching him when I was a young kid. It's a very humbling to get to play beside him and like I said, I'm excited to take all I can from him and the other two guys as far as their experiences as rookies.

Q: With your long snapping, how competitive do you feel in that area? Do you feel like you could do that here in the NFL?

LS: A guy named Mike Bartrum who played tight end at Marshall. I think he was actually in New England for a little while, maybe.

Q: He was in the mid '90s.

LS: Yes, sir. And he did it for a long time, and I think he played 13 or 14 years. And at that position, it can add 2 or 3 years to a player's football career. And I feel like anything that allows me to play in the National Football League for even an extra year is something that's worth working at every day. That's been my passion my whole life. I love playing football. I love the competition. I love the camaraderie. If there's someone in New England that can get me right on my long snapping, I definitely could use a tweak here and there on it, but it's something that I'd be wiling to definitely learn how to do. I feel like if you have a tight end on the roster and he can also be your long snapper, it adds a roster spot somewhere else, so it can be nothing but helpful to me and the Patriots.

Q: I've read you play with a mean streak. Where did that come from?

LS: I don't know, maybe having the dad as a player. I told a story the other day: I remember my first year in football, I knocked somebody down. I was real little, and I had to help him up. And my dad beat me when I got home, and told me that after the game I could shake his hand and tell him he's a great player and tell him I love him, but during the game, I have no friends in between the white lines as long as that clock hasn't hit zero. So, I think I learned that lesson very young. I think it's good to have a little nastiness in you – to be an extra offensive lineman on the field at the tight end position.

Q: Do you think you'll give a warning to your defensive teammates in training camp that you might be friends with them after the practice, but during the practice they can expect everything from you?

LS: Absolutely. New England's been a very successful football team in the NFL in the last 5-10 years. And I wouldn't expect anything different. I expect the offense, the defense, the special teams – I expect everyone on that football team during practice and in between the white lines to be playing 100 percent. There are very few people in the whole world who get to play football in the National Football League. And you've always got to give 100 percent every play of practice and every play on Sundays. I think we owe that to the fans, I think we owe that to the community. We owe that to each other. I don't think I'm going to have any problem with them or the coaches or anyone being upset about going full speed.

Q: How do you handle competition? There are only so many spots for a tight end, and the Patriots have three good ones on the roster.

LS: By no means am I saying that I'm a Crumpler, Gronkowski or Hernandez. Those guys are all great players. I'm excited about the competition. New England dressed two rookies last year who were probably two of the most successful rookie tight ends in the NFL, and that's great. And like I said earlier, having someone like Crumple, who has been there and done that and played in Pro Bowls, the respect that I'm sure Gronkowski, Hernandez, and myself now have for him is off the charts. So, I'm going to compete just like I would if I was the only tight end on the team. I don't think them being there or them not being there...every player in the NFL I'm sure competes as hard as they can every day on and off the field in order to be the best player they can be regardless of who is in front of them or behind them.

Q: What does it mean to you to have been a team captain twice?

LS: What I've always said about that is the rewarding thing about that is that your teammates are voting on that. Not coaches, not fans, it's your teammates. It's the guys you battle with all year round. If you're skipping class, if you're missing workouts, if you take a day off in practice, then your teammates can't rely on you. To be nominated captain two years, it just showed me that I was one of the four guys on my team that my teammates thought was a foxhole guy is kind of what I like to call it. By no means does it mean that I was the best player on the team or anything like that, I just felt like it meant that they trusted me and they respected me. And that was very rewarding to be nominated captain by my teammates those couple years.

Q: How celebrated are guys like Troy Brown and Randy Moss down there in the Marshall community?

LS: As I was talking about Mike Bartrum earlier, there's the Bartrum-Brown football camp every summer. And it's pretty much the highlight of the year for that community with the exception of when Marshall plays West Virginia. It's a great time, the community comes together. And Randy Moss is from right up down the road. So, the Chad Pennington's, the Randy Moss's, Troy Brown's, Byron Leftwich's ... all though Marshall, there is a high level of talent in Conference-USA, there's not 100 guys playing in the NFL right now from Marshall University. So those guys who are fortunate enough to move on to the next level are respected highly, and they're looked up to by all of us players.

Q: Clearly you're thought of more of as physical blocking tight end. Have you given any consideration to moving to tackle?

LS: Absolutely. My father was a tackle in the NFL. I am the 270 pound guy that I don't know about the mean streak comment, I'd like to say I have one here and there. I try to be as nice as possible. Of course people have said it here and there, but at the same time, I believe that New England drafted me to be a tight end. I played tight end my whole career at college. But at the same time, whatever I need to do to compete and contribute in the NFL, I'll do. My goal is to contribute on Sunday's. I don't' want to be the guy that doesn't contribute. I'm not saying that I have to be a starter or I have to be this or I have to be that, I just want to make sure I contribute in the NFL, and I get to play ball. If that's at tackle, tight end and special teams, whatever it is, that's what my dream has been my whole life.

Q: One follow up on the snapping stuff, when you were working out for teams, how much did they work with you on that?

LS: Nothing really. You had your questionnaires and everything through the combine process and all of that. And of course for the tight end, fullback types, there is always the long snapping issue because like I said, it's a situation where if you have a tight end who can also do that, then it adds another roster spot somewhere else on the team. And I think that can be very helpful. So, I've done it, I can do it, I never did it in college, but it's something that I'm definitely willing to work on. And I think that once again, it can be helpful for me and the Patriots, but at the same time to answer your question, I did not work at long snapping with any coaches during this process.

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