NAPA –Lee Smith likes to consider himself an honorary offensive lineman. That’s a rare badge of honor among modern tight ends, who often find fame in receiving statistics.
Smith is a throwback, built like Paul Bunyan with a lumberjack’s beard and a Tennessee drawl. When it comes to football, the new Raider likes to mix it up.
“I’ve always been a glorified offensive lineman, and my true passion is getting in there and helping a running back get loose," Smith said. "Catching passes and scoring touchdowns is a lot of fun, but love being in there with the hogs.”
Fighting in the slop is a family tradition. Smith’s father Daryle Smith was a University of Tennessee standout who played offensive tackle in the NFL for Dallas, Cleveland and Philadelphia from 1987-1992.
Father taught son his trade, and Lee Smith plied it at Marshall before getting drafted by New England and spending four years with the Buffalo Bills.
“He had advice for me every step of the way, because he had already been through it,” Lee Smith said. “He did exactly what I did. He played tight end when he was younger, but then they moved his butt inside as he got older. All the blocking technique and little tricks of the trade were passed on down the line.”
Daryle Smith never got to see his son play pro ball. He was admitted to the hospital with pancreatic issues and gall stones in Feb. 2010 and never checked out. He slipped into a coma and died shortly after. Daryle Smith was just 46.
“Nobody wants to lose their father at the age of (46), so it definitely wasn’t fun, and it definitely was something that I feel like happened too soon, but things happen in life,” Lee Smith told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Hopefully the Lord will allow me to be around for my little guys longer than that, and I intend to do a lot of the things he taught me with my children, so I’m thankful to him, for sure.”
Smith has a wife and four children, and his family is loving the new life chosen by signing a three-year contract with the Raiders.
Smith does everything with maximum effort, and will follow this new coaching staff through a brick wall.
“He’s a tough guy,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a veteran guy that understands what it takes to be able to run the ball and some of the combination blocks that he’ll be a part of. The fact that he’s not a glamour guy, he’s not really too concerned with his stats, he just wants to help the team in any way that he can is a good thing.”
He’ll be an integral part of this offense, especially in the run game. He has 20 receptions in four seasons and can catch some, but Smith’s primary focus is to create holes and protect the quarterback.
“They brought me in to be an in-line blocker and play with an edge and grind with the offensive linemen, and that’s what I love doing,” Smith said. “Everybody at tight end and on the offensive line is trying to be the anchor of the offense. Everything starts will us.”