Will Smith was starting to feel upset and downcast as the three-day NFL draft wound toward a conclusion Saturday.
The Texas Tech linebacker didn’t know he was about to receive the phone call of his dreams. The Dallas Cowboys chose Smith in the seventh round and, even growing up in California, the Cowboys were his favorite team.
“All I had was Emmitt Smith jerseys, Roy Williams jerseys, the Triplets (Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin) posters,” Smith said.
The 6-foot-2, 231-pound Smith led Tech in tackles last season with 120 and was a first-team All-Big 12 honoree by the Associated Press. He was back home in Riverside, Calif., with his family for the draft.
Going to the Cowboys had to thrill not only Smith, but his father Wade Smith, too.
“Me and my dad have been Cowboys fans since I (was born),” Will Smith said. “That’s how he raised me. It was a dream come true for that to happen.”
Dallas had five picks in the seventh round and used all five on defensive players. Altogether, the Cowboys spent seven of nine selections to upgrade their defense.
Tech had two players drafted and three others agree to free-agent deals immediately after the draft. All-America tight end Jace Amaro went in the second round to the New York Jets on Friday night, the 49th overall pick.
Not drafted but agreeing to terms were defensive tackle Kerry Hyder with the Jets, linebacker Terrance Bullitt with the Baltimore Ravens and wide receiver Eric Ward with the Tennessee Titans.
Smith played inside linebacker in the Red Raiders’ 3-4 defense last year, but said he expects to begin at outside linebacker with the Cowboys.
As thrilled as Smith was with the team that chose him, some of his Tech teammates were equally enthusiastic.
Hyder’s agreement with New York made it two Red Raiders to the Jets in two days.
“It’s the greatest feeling,” Hyder said. “Of course, it’s disappointing when you don’t get drafted. I still feel blessed and in a position to succeed and I’m ecstatic to be a New York Jet.”
Bullitt wondered what defensive player wouldn’t cherish a shot with the Baltimore Ravens.
“Growing up, I’ve always watched the Ravens since they were in the Super Bowl in 2000,” he said. “If you play defense, everyone dreams of putting on that black and purple and playing for the Ravens, so this is like a dream come true.”
Bullitt said Ravens officials called in the sixth round to say they were considering him as a late-round pick, but they needed to take a quarterback and a wide receiver – two positions they had not addressed.
Based on those conversations with the Ravens, however, Bullitt said he didn’t need a second offer once the draft ended.
“They expressed how much I was number one on their board,” he said, “and I feel really good about the situation for me.”
Tech’s free agents have more tangible hopes than usual given the recent success of some of their ex-teammates. Tackle LaAdrian Waddle and safety Cody Davis both wound up on regular-season rosters last season, Waddle with the Lions and Davis with the Rams, after going undrafted.