Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 18, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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50 SEPT. 18, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE F o r a p l aye r o n ce co n s i d e re d a "tweener" while he bounced be- tween linebacker and safety during his first three seasons at Notre Dame from 2007-09, eventual Irish standout Har- rison Smith has productively and lucra- tively overcome any identity crisis after leaving South Bend a decade ago. Playing in his 10th season as a star safety for the Minnesota Vikings, Smith recently signed a four-year, $64 million-contract extension that runs through 2025. It's a deal that provides Smith the opportunity to finish his ca- reer with the same team that selected him 29th overall in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. This latest contract extension pays Smith, 32, an immediate signing bonus of $9.6 million, alongside a $3.5-million roster bonus for 2021 and another $8 million roster bonus in 2022, presum- ing he's still a Viking one year from now. Prior to this recent blockbuster deal, Smith signed a five-year package with the Vikings in 2016 worth $51.25 million that runs through this season. "When I signed in 2016, you think, 'Will I be able to play at a high level for this entire deal?'" said Smith, who will be 37 years old when his latest contract extension expires. "Focusing on the now is what has allowed me to play my best football, so I'm just going to continue to do that. "To play as long as I have, and to con- tinue playing, it's not just an individ- ual thing, it's a team thing. So I'm very grateful to those who have helped me along the way." Grateful and grounded, Smith down- played a contract that makes him the second-highest-paid safety in the NFL. "Contracts aren't something I've worried about in my career, and it's allowed me to just focus on playing football," said Smith, who mundanely celebrated his new deal with his wife, Madison, over cookies. "Those things tend to take care of themselves, so I still have that approach. "But I understand the reality of get- ting older in the league. Being able to be a Viking for my career is the most important." Smith specifically recognized eighth- year Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer as a driving force behind the develop- ment and longevity he's enjoyed as a player. Zimmer took the Vikings' top job in 2014, two years after Smith arrived, so the two have built a mutual familiar- ity and appreciation for nearly a decade. Zimmer's respect runs so deeply, the revered 28-year NFL coach hinted that his durable and productive safety may someday deserve big-time recognition. "I've coached some Hall of Famers," Zimmer said. "Is [Smith] there? I don't know. But he's always well respected in the league, and the coaches all respect him, and I'm glad we've had him for the eight years I've been here." Harrison Smith Making History, And Big Bucks, As A Viking Veteran Prior to the start of the season, Smith signed a four-year, $64-million contract extension that made him the second-highest-paid safety in the NFL. PHOTO COURTESY MINNESOTA VIKINGS

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