He has five NFL seasons and two Pro Bowls under his belt, but “Harry the Hitman” hasn’t stopped hitting the books.
Harrison Smith has been a key cog in Minnesota’s defense from day one, starting 66 of 67 games played since being drafted 29th overall in 2012. League stats have credited Smith with 404 tackles (305 solo), 28 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions, returning four of them for touchdowns.
But while many of his younger teammates look up to Smith as a mentor both on and off the field, the safety said he continues to be a student himself.
“[I try] to pass on the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained,” Smith said earlier this spring. “[But] I’m still trying to steal some from Terence [Newman] and the coaches and everybody.”
Smith’s dedication to the mental part of the game combines with his physicality to make him one of the NFL’s most dynamic safeties.
Following a 2016 performance in which he played 14 games and recorded 91 tackles (league stats), 69 solo stops, and a pair each of passes defensed, fumble recoveries and sacks, Smith’s peers voted him in at No. 74 on the NFL’s Top 100 list. In the reveal segment, respect rained from teammates and opposing players alike.
“If you try to run the ball to Harrison’s side, he will track you down, and he will stop you in your steps,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who shared the defensive backfield with Smith from 2014-16. “He’s got a very high I.Q. of the game, he understands coverages, he understands schemes.”
Packers receiver Davante Adams – whom Smith helped hold to 70 yards over two games against the Vikings in 2016 – said the safety has “definitely caused us problems with disguises and things like that” in division-rival matchups.
“He’s a real smart, instinctive guy,” Adams said.
It’s a quality that’s well-recognized and appreciated not only by fellow players but by Smith’s coaches, as well.
The 2017 seasons will mark his fourth under the guidance of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, all of whom have nothing but positive things to say about No. 22’s approach to the game.
Edwards said that Smith, along with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, are detail-oriented players who “carry out what we’re trying to do schematically, understand the different things we do from week to week” and have the ability to adjust on the fly when necessary.
As the team prepares to report for Vikings Training Camp, Gray said he’s grateful to have Smith in the DB room – as both a teacher and a student.
“You’re talking about a guy who’s very established, he understands what he’s supposed to do. He can help other guys get better, and he’s trying to get better,” Gray said. “And that’s the good thing about Harrison – he doesn’t think, ‘I’ve arrived.’
“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach guys like him, who say, ‘Coach, I’m coming to work every day, I’m giving 100 percent, I’m going to do my job, and I’m going to try to do it to the best of my ability,’ ” Gray continued. “And when you get guys like that, that have ability to help other guys, that’s when you get better.”