Kyle Smith, the Washington Redskins’ 35-year-old vice president of player personnel, has been almost invisible, at least publicly, during what amounts to a four-month tryout. He did one mandatory news conference at February’s NFL scouting combine and has otherwise avoided making headlines and getting tied up in the distractions that sometimes come with his position, especially this time of year.

Smith has reason to remain unnoticed. If all goes well with next week’s NFL draft, there is a good chance Coach Ron Rivera will make Smith the franchise’s third-most-powerful man behind owner Daniel Snyder and Rivera, either by adding the title of general manager or choosing not to hire a GM and leaving Smith as the organization’s top personnel executive.

As recently as a month ago, several former and current NFL scouts and executives said they expected Rivera, who does not have previous front-office experience, to hire a general manager from outside the organization. The belief was that the 58-year-old Rivera knows this might be his last chance to be a head coach and that he was going to find someone experienced to run the front office following the draft, when such hires are often made.

But that talk has stopped in recent weeks. Rivera, hired in December to replace the fired Jay Gruden, repeatedly has praised Smith through what the coach has told many is a “test” of Smith’s ability to be the team’s personnel chief after three years as Washington’s director of college personnel. People familiar with the two men’s relationship say Rivera has been impressed with Smith’s plan for rebuilding the team, as well as the way he handled free agency and prepared for the draft. They suggest the bond has only tightened as the two men have been forced to talk constantly by phone and video conference after the league ordered all team facilities closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I think our relationship is very good, very strong,” Rivera said at the combine after raving about Smith’s diligence and ability to work with the new coaching staff. In a video conference call with reporters last week, Rivera continued to praise Smith, saying the way Smith set up the team’s draft board was different from how he had seen boards done in the past, but added: “I really do like the process, the way it’s been mapped out. I just think we’re getting some pretty good insight.”

If Smith maintains his interim role overseeing the team’s personnel operations, it will be a fast rise for a man who just 10 years ago was an intern in the Redskins’ front office. And yet those who have worked with Smith describe him as someone with an innate sense for evaluating players. They say he stood out as an intern and quickly earned a chance to become an area scout.

“You knew from early on that not only did everyone like him personally, but he knew how to talk about players,” said one person who worked with Smith in the Redskins’ front office. “If you ask him about a player, he doesn’t need to go back to his notes, and he has a good feel for who the player is.”

In a way, this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Smith had been born into scouting. His father, A.J. Smith, spent years working his way though NFL scouting departments, becoming an executive who helped build the Buffalo Bills’ 1990s teams that advanced to four straight Super Bowls. Later, he was the San Diego Chargers’ general manager for 10 years, building a team that won 11 or more games four times and had just two losing seasons.

During his combine news conference, Kyle Smith spoke admiringly of the long path taken by his father, who worked for years as a gym teacher in Rhode Island and drove to the New England Patriots’ facility when school ended for an unpaid internship in the franchise’s scouting department.

“[A.J. Smith] worked his way up to become a general manager,” Kyle Smith said. “I had the easy road. I had a dad who was a GM 10 years and made a call to get me an internship. He told me that day when [I] got the job, ‘I got your foot in the door, but what you do from here is on you.’ Everything I have done philosophy-wise he trained me. He raised me.”

For two years, A.J. Smith worked as an adviser to the Redskins while his son served as an area scout. But even after A.J. Smith left the team, he remained a sounding board for Kyle, who said the two speak every day about players.

“Every once in a while he’ll ask me: ‘Who are you dating? What’s her name? What’s she look like? Okay, great, tell me about that Alabama prospect.’ That’s kind of our relationship,” Kyle Smith said at the combine. “I rely heavily on every scenario he’s been through because he’s held just about every title there is — area scout, pro scout, college director, pro director, assistant GM. He’s been through a lot of experiences.

“And in my position now, I’ll rely on him heavily.”

As Kyle Smith moves easily around the fringes of Redskins practices and games, he does not seem much like his father. As the Chargers’ general manager, A.J. Smith often was seen as a powerful, boastful man who touted his draft successes and described his decisions with dramatic exaggeration. His son seems more subdued, smiling easy and avoiding attention.

But those who know both father and son say they actually are a lot alike, that despite his placid outward appearance, Kyle Smith is as strong in his opinions about players as A.J. and not afraid to express them, even explosively.

“Neither of them have any tolerance for people who are going to get in the way of having the team be successful,” said the person who worked with Smith, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Still, in his mid-30s with seven years as an area scout and three as the college scouting director, Kyle Smith is not an imperial figure around the Redskins. A large part of his success and quick ascent within the team’s front office is his ability to organize and solicit the opinions of others, relying heavily on the thoughts of those in the front office who understand particular positions — for instance, asking an executive with a good feel for offensive linemen for his assessment of certain line prospects.

Undoubtedly, Smith’s reputation has been boosted by the team’s drafts during the three years he ran the scouting department. Washington’s draft picks from 2017 to 2019 have largely been well regarded by people around the league and in the media, with several young players who are seen as a foundation upon which Rivera can build. One of Snyder’s early pitches to Rivera was to examine those drafts, something that may have helped Rivera form a positive opinion of Smith.

While Smith built the team’s draft board, former team president Bruce Allen actually made the picks, which makes next week an important last test for Smith. Rivera has talked about how he wants his front office to be collaborative, but when it comes time to make the selection in an extraordinary draft, with everyone sitting in their own homes, the final call will come down to Smith and Rivera.

The decision might be relatively straightforward Thursday if Washington chooses Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young, considered by many observers to be the draft’s best player, with the second overall pick. But what happens if the Redskins receive a lucrative trade offer, and what will they do in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, where they will need to find the playmakers around which to build their offense?

Those will be big moments for a young executive who has come a long way very fast.

Read more on the Redskins: