Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 18, 2021

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

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Page 50 of 55 SEPT. 18, 2021 51 IRISH IN THE PROS A five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection, a first-team All-Pro honoree in 2017 and a second-team All-Pro pick in 2018, Smith — nicknamed by his teammates as "Dirty Harry" and "Hit Man" — has already left his mark on Vikings lore. A 6-2, 211-pound Tennessee rough- neck, Smith starts this season as the Vikings' record holder with four inter- ceptions returned for a touchdown and he's seventh in franchise history with 28 picks. Smith also remains ahead of pace to pass Minnesota icon Paul Krause for the most-ever starts by a Vikings safety. "I feel like [Smith] is one of the best guys that I've ever had at safety, and that includes a lot of really good play- ers," said Zimmer, who began his NFL coaching career in 1994. "It's great to have him here, probably for the rest of his career, and he kind of embodies ev- erything we try to do here." Krause, a NFL Hall of Fame inductee and still the league's all-time record- holder with 81 career interceptions, played 12 seasons with the Vikings from 1968-79. NOTRE DAME TIES Harrison Smith, named after leg- endary actor Harrison Ford, attended little Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic High School — with about 700 total enrollees — where he earned Gatorade Tennes- see Football Player of the Year honors in 2006 as a standout running back and defensive back. Fiercely competitive, Smith also played high school basketball, soccer and dabbled in about anything else he could find time for. An outstanding and versatile high school track athlete — competing for the Fighting Irish, appropriately — Smith as a senior in 2007 won Tennes- see state titles in both the high jump and the decathlon. With personal bests of 6.8 feet in the high jump, 21.5 feet in the long jump and 46.5 feet in the triple jump, Smith's ath- leticism — bundled with a lanky body frame — made for a coveted four-star high school recruit who could play ei- ther offense or defense in college. Rated by Rivals as the No. 25 athlete in the nation, Smith chose Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, Stanford, Ala- bama and hometown Tennessee. Playing his first three seasons at Notre Dame under former head coach Charlie Weis — mainly as an under-sized and out-of-position linebacker because of roster needs — Smith's future course became abundantly clear in the spring of 2010 when Brian Kelly replaced Weis as the Notre Dame head coach. "[Smith] would never be an outside linebacker in our system, he's always been a safety. If he can't play safety, he can't play," Kelly famously declared. As a fourth- and fifth-year player un- der Kelly — Smith redshirted as a fresh- man in 2007 — he excelled and validated his coach's foresight during a three-in- terception game against USC in 2010 that carried Notre Dame to a 20-16 vic- tory and ended an eight-contest losing streak to the Trojans. Me m o r i e s a n d a cco l a d e s a s i d e , Smith will forever focus more on one missed play in a game than the three great ones. "Ever since I was a kid, if I mess up a play in practice, I think about it the rest of the day," he said. "It's a good thing and a bad thing sometimes. I think I'll always have that." It's that self-motivational DNA that still drives Smith after nine seasons and 130 career NFL games. So any chatter about potential Hall of Fame induction and/or a future place in the Vikings Ring of Honor at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will wait until the Pride of Knoxville finishes a long career as one of the best and wealthiest NFL safeties this decade. "It's always hard to look too far into the future in the NFL," Smith said. "One of things that has allowed me to have pretty constant success is just focusing on the now." ✦ HIGHEST-PAID SAFETIES IN THE NFL As of Sept. 10 Rk. Player, Team Age Total Value Avg./Year 1. Jamal Adams, Seattle 26 $70 million $17.5 million 2. Harrison Smith, Minnesota 32 $64 million $16 million 3. Justin Simmons, Denver 28 $61 million $15.25 million 4. Budda Baker, Arizona 25 $59 million $14.75 million 5. Eddie Jackson, Chicago 28 $58.4 million $14.6 million 6. Kevin Byard, Tennessee 28 $70.5 million $14.1 million 7. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City 29 $42 million $14 million 8. Landon Collins, Washington 27 $84 million $14 million 9. Devin McCourty, New England 34 $23 million $11.5 million 10. John Johnson, Cleveland 26 $33.75 million $11.25 million Call 877-630-8768 to advertise in Blue & Gold Illustrated! Want a prayer published? Call 800-421-7751 Vintage Notre Dame Memorabilia Augie's Locker Room ND Stadium Items, Jerseys, Helmets, Autographs and One-of-a-Kind Rockne Items. COME INTO THE STORE TO SEE OUR RARE NOTRE DAME HELMET DISPLAY, 1900 - PRESENT!! Voted Best Notre Dame Collectibles in the Country! 1811 South Bend Ave. South Bend , I n 46637 574-277-NDND (6363) FACEBOOK.COM/AUGIESLOCKERROOM NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL GAMES on VHS or DVD for sale, from 1928 to present. Contact Peter Rahas at 7700 Golden Filly St., Las Vegas, NV 89131 or call 1-702-395-2974 M A R K E T P L A C E

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