"He is the only executive director of the NFL Players Association to have never played professional football," Brian Toll, chairman of the group that selected the speaker, told The Diamondback. "I think that shows the type of person and leader he is and the amount of support he's generated."
The selection of Smith generated some controversy, given his role in the current impasse between the NFLPA and the NFL. His high-profile role, as well as his life story and success, factored into the decision, according to Toll.
"He came from humble beginnings to get to where he is today, which speaks to the personality he possesses and the story he can tell," Toll said. "Just because of the position he holds and the way he articulates himself, we think he is absolutely relatable."
A committee of about 20 students chose Smith, a graduate of Cedarville University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He has worked in the public and private sectors. He has been a trial lawyer and litigation partner at Patton Boggs and served as counsel to Eric Holder when he was deputy attorney general.
Senior reviews, according to The Diamondback, have been mixed. "I think him coming to speak is good because a lot of college students are into sports, so he's probably relevant," senior Sam Moore said. "He's a smart guy, but I don't know what he's going talk about."
"I'm pretty disappointed. As soon as the negotiations are over we won't hear about him again probably for another three years," senior Jesse Cantor said. "With our proximity to Washington, we have ties to so many places and politicians; any real athlete or someone who has a more lasting relevance would have been better."