The Ravens’ third-year receiver is having a great start to the 2013 season and has emerged as one of the premier wideouts in the NFL.
But according to him, his first four games have been pretty ho-hum.
“It’s alright,” Smith said. “Nothing special. I could do a lot better.”
Smith may downplay his start, but everyone around him is singing his praises.
He has clearly been the most explosive weapon on an offense in need of playmakers, and he has taken on the responsibility that comes with being the leader of the Ravens’ receiving corps.
“Torrey is special,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Smith leads the Ravens with 435 receiving yards, which currently ranks third in the NFL. He has racked up the impressive individual numbers while the offense has sputtered – the unit currently ranks 28th in the NFL in total yards per game – and he has blossomed into the role of No. 1 receiver.
In last week’s game against Buffalo, where the offense struggled to do just about everything, Smith was the exception. He sparked the offense in the second half and finished with a season-high 166 receiving yards and a touchdown.
“He’s made the kind of plays that make differences for you in football games,” Harbaugh said. “Torrey plays a huge role for us – call it what you want – but he plays a huge role for us, and he’s a big part of our team.”
Smith’s development over the last three years has been critical to the evolution of the Ravens offense. He has grown from a speedy deep threat in his rookie season, to a receiver who can run every route.
This season he has routinely beat opponents on crossing routes over the middle or hitch patterns on the edge. And he still has the deep route in his arsenal, which he showed off with a 74-yard catch against the Bills.
“He’s getting better all the time,” Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “He certainly hasn’t even scratched the surface of where he’s going to be.”
Smith’s role extends beyond his ability to stretch defenses and make highlight-reel catches. He is one of the valued leaders on a team that has undergone a significant change in personnel after parting ways with a number of tenured veterans.
At 24 years old, Smith is still one of the younger players on the roster, but his authority in the locker room and respect from teammates is unquestioned.
“I admire Torrey more than a lot of people,” Pro Bowl running back
Smith spent the last two seasons learning from veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, who mentored Smith during his time in Baltimore. When the Ravens traded Boldin to San Francisco, Smith had his turn to step up on the field and as a leader in the locker room.
“He’s a guy that is not afraid to express his opinion,” Caldwell said. “He also is a guy that elevated his game and just keeps getting better and better.”
Smith has the kind of attitude that is valued within the Ravens organization. He’s a hard worker and has a pristine reputation off the field.
“Torrey is a natural leader,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been that way, really, almost since the first day he got here just by the force of his personality and attitude and all those things – work ethic.”
Smith knew coming into this season that he had a brighter spotlight on him and elevated expectations. He’s the No. 1 receiver of the defending Super Bowl champions, catching passes from a $120 million quarterback.
But he insists that did not change his approach at all.
“I don’t try to go out there and try to be different than my true character,” Smith said. “I don’t try to be a hero or anything. I make sure not to act like I’m above anyone, because it’s not the case. We’re all the same. We’re all working together to reach the same goal.”
In addition to Smith’s success on the football field, this has also been a big year for Smith personally. He married his college sweetheart, Chanel, four months after the Super Bowl. This week, the couple announced that they are expecting their first child this spring.
“Every decision that I make is going to be a reflection [on] my child, so I want to be the best possible person I can be so that I can be the best possible father,” Smith said. “That’s a different type of motivation that I haven’t felt before.”
As Smith continues to enjoy success personally and professionally, he is constantly looking for ways to improve. Smith says he is “trying to get to that point where I’m doing everything right all the time,” and the Ravens are confident he will keep moving in that direction.
“He handles everything,” Harbaugh said. “Everything I’ve seen Torrey handle, he’s handled in an exceptional way. I feel like he’s just a special person that way.
“I feel strongly about him. He’s a great person."