Last fall, for the first time in his adult life, Fred Smoot didn’t play football.
Sure, he found other things to do. The former Redskins cornerback, now 32, made some media appearances in the Atlanta and Washington markets. He played basketball and tennis in the backyard sports complex — which he calls “The Smoot-A-Plex.” He emceed a pep rally at Mississippi State last week — chest bumping head coach Dan Mullen during introductions (see video below) — and continued to work toward his degree in psychology with a minor in broadcast communications. Online, of course.
“I can’t sit in class with the 20-year olds,” he told me on Friday afternoon. “That felt like it would probably be an awkward environment.”
Smoot watched football on TV, and went fishing, and joined bowling leagues, and even took a hovercraft ride down the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, where his property is located.
“I’m always seeing people coming through on canoes,” he explained. “One day I’m out fishing, with my water suit on, and a guy comes riding through on a hovercraft. C’mon, if you see someone on a hovercraft, wouldn’t you want to ride it?”
The ride was great, and Smoot now wants to get a hovercraft of his own. But man cannot live on hovercrafts and Smoot-A-Plexes alone, and so Smoot is pursuing his post-football dream: a career in sports media. He again sat in with Comcast SportsNet’s Redskins Postgame Live set Sunday afternoon, helping the show’s regular panelists analyze the Redskins-Cardinals game and further building his broadcasting portfolio.
Smoot left Washington after being released early in Mike Shanahan’s tenure, and he assumed the phone would ring again, bringing him to a new NFL organization. That never happened, and as Smoot watched the 2010 season play out on his television, he was “competing in my head, comparing myself to certain guys, wondering why certain guys are on that roster and I’m not.”
“How should I say; it was a sobering experience,” he said. “Your career don’t start when you come to the NFL; your career start in Pee Wee leagues. We’ve been doing our job ever since we were 6, 7 years old, and when that’s taken away from you, like I said, it’s a sobering, humbling experience....
“You look at the small things you miss from playing the game: chilling with the guys, the locker room camaraderie, being part of a team,” he continued. “You miss that, beyond the money. You’re used to being around a group, having this big extended family. You go from that to basically back to the real world.”
Which would be what? Smoot had gotten involved in some business ventures during his career — the Smoot Smack energy bar, most memorably — and still hopes to open restaurants in the Washington area. But he also had long talked of a post-football career in broadcast media.
Calling himself a “32-year old phenom in the media talk wars,” Smoot explained that prospective players-turned-broadcasters should be given grades like draft prospects, and that he should grade out just fine.
“It’s natural to me,” he said. “You know what, they say sometimes the wrong things that happen to you turn out to be your strengths. I ended up playing for the Redskins most of my career, and I had a LOT of defensive coordinators. I’m talking about seven, eight of them....
“I know defenses, and in learning defenses, I learned offenses. With my education in football and my personality, I just think if you had to grade me right now, I should come in with a pretty high score. As a rookie, this guy right here should be a top 10 pick in your next analyst draft.”
Smoot also wants to publish his “Power 25” list of football broadcasters — “I might hurt some feelings, though,” he warned — arguing that if broadcasters can rank athletes, the reverse should be true. And he said Washington would be the natural start for his media progression, since “D.C. people love me like I love them,” and “I’m the stepson of D.C.”
Smoot has also provided me better copy than any Redskins player of the past half-decade, and I can’t imagine any show wouldn’t improve with a few more mentions of the Smoot-A-Plex. The only concern I expressed to the famous talker was that he might overwhelm a panel by, you know, talking too much.
“I’m a team player,” he responded. “I’m not overbearing like that. And if everybody wants me to talk, they’ll end up giving me my own show.”