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Published: Tuesday, 2/28/2006

Start's Smith feels good about his NFL chances

INDIANAPOLIS - Kent Smith left the NFL scouting combine yesterday with a sunny disposition. Perhaps it's appropriate that he was headed back to the Sunshine State.

Smith, the former Central Michigan quarterback from Start High School, plans to resume working out at Cris Carter's multisport training facility in Boca Raton, Fla.

Smith spent nearly two months in Carter's camp prior to the start of the combine last week, trying to increase his overall speed and quickness.

He also got personal instruction from former NFL quarterback Jay Fielder about footwork and throwing mechanics.

Brian Levy, Smith's Florida-based agent, believes his client performed well for the NFL coaches, scouts and general managers during his individual workout Sunday at the RCA Dome.

Smith produced a vertical jump of 35 inches and a standing long jump of 10 feet, 2 inches.

"Kent did a nice job, from what I'm hearing," Levy said yesterday. "He was unhappy with his field drills and the way he threw the ball, but after meeting with him and talking to him, seven or eight NFL teams are interested in him.

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"He didn't play in a great system for him in college, and now he has to move from the shotgun to under center in the pros. But with some good NFL coaching, I believe Kent could make something of himself."

The last Central Michigan quarterback who was drafted and played in the NFL was Gary Hogeboom. He was the Dallas Cowboys' fifth-round selection in 1980.

Smith, a 6-4, 216-pound left-hander, would love to follow in Hogeboom's footsteps. But his name isn't expected to be called during the two-day draft in late April.

Smith likely will sign a free-agent contract with the NFL team that best suits his game, or is offering him the best opportunity to make the practice squad. He talked with all 32 teams here, and had additional personal interviews with the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins.

"I was surprised to see how many people were interested in me and how many people even knew I existed," Smith said. "I'd love to get drafted, but I think I'll be a free agent. Either way, I'll be happy. I just want a chance to show what I can do on the field."

Smith had a topsy-turvy career at Central Michigan. He made his first start as a redshirt freshman in 2002. He played just the first half against Western Michigan, struggled mightily, and didn't hit the field again until 2004.

That's when Brian Kelly replaced Mike DeBord as coach, and rescued Smith from the scrap heap.

Smith went from forgotten man to two-year starter. He holds or shares eight Central Michigan records for passing and total offense. He completed a school-record 255 passes for 2,799 yards and 16 touchdowns last season and ran for 433 yards and seven scores.

Smith, who graduated with a business degree in May of 2005, is just the third quarterback in school history to throw for at least 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

Smith will work out for the NFL folks again on March 15 in Mount Pleasant, Mich. It will be his last chance to impress the scouts before the NFL draft.

Kent Smith could only smile at the thought.



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