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BillyCarpenter1 08-05-2003 07:38 AM

Kenny Smith Article
Smith relishing his first real chance to start
Eric Narcisse

August 5, 2003

METAIRIE — The time has finally come for New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Kenny Smith.

The starting job is his to lose.

Saints head coach Jim Haslett knows it, Saints defensive line coach Sam Clancy knows it and now Smith knows it.

“It’s my job to lose,� said Smith, who is in his third season out of Alabama, when the Saints made him their third round selection (81st overall) in the 2001 NFL draft. “Coach Haslett has put me in a situation where if I want the job it’s mine. And believe me I want it.�

So, what went through Smith’s head when the Saints swapped their two first round picks to the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 6 overall selection, where they selected Georgia defensive tackle Johnathon Sullivan?

“I honestly didn’t think much of it,� Smith said. “I didn’t look at it as a message to me or a wake-up call or anything like that. I don’t need a wake-up call, I am a professional football player and a competitor. I know what I need to do.�

But Smith agrees that if he was sent a message or a wake-up call by Haslett, it came during the season.

“I had dressed for the first 14 games of the season and played in nine,� Smith said. “But when coach Haslett made me inactive for the final two games of the year, that’s when I knew that I had to turn it on.�

During those nine games, Smith had 18 tackles (15 solos), 3 1/2 sacks, one pass defensed and a fumble recovery.

“I have my mind set on starting,� Smith said. “And since season’s end I have taken a lot of positive steps. I have taken it upon myself to be the best that I am capable of being. I want to be the leader of the defense.

“When we need that big play, I want to be the one that gives it to us.�Smith acknowledges the fact that he does feel the pressure to succeed this year.

“I feel the pressure,� Smith said. “I feel a lot of pressure, not only from the players vying for my job, but from the coaches. I know that this might be my last opportunity to show what I can do.�

Smith has been somewhat of an underachiever in two years, but it’s believed that the light has finally been turned on. “I’m ready for this opportunity,� Smith said. “All through high school and in college I was a starter, and now I have come here and it’s been different. I’m not used to not being a starter and I have a chance to change the direction of my career.� Whether he does or does not, it’s up to him.

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