TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s been more than seven years since Telvin Smith first set foot on Florida State’s campus as a recruit from Valdosta, Ga.
But, as he made his way out to the Seminoles’ spring practice session on Wednesday afternoon, Smith felt a wave of familiar emotions.
“I get that same feeling of the first time, when I came here and I said, ‘I’m coming to Florida State,’” Smith said. “When I stepped on the field at Doak Campbell and said, ‘This is where I want to be.’
“Now I say, ‘This is where I have been, and I want to be here.’”
Smith, along with former FSU teammate Jacobbi McDaniel, visited Tallahassee Wednesday to train, catch up with coaches and speak with the current Seminoles.
Among the themes of Smith’s message were leadership, preparation and how to build habits that lead to success in the NFL.
“The guidance is the biggest thing – to show them where we’re at and how to get there,” Smith said. “They see where we’re at and they want to be there, but then they forget the process of how to get there.”
Smith might be the perfect voice for that message.
One of the most beloved players from coach Jimbo Fisher’s first signing class, Smith had a memorable, four-year career at linebacker that culminated with All-ACC honors and a team-high 90 tackles as a senior in 2013.
He also worked his way through some mistakes as a young player – Fisher called them “knucklehead things” – before maturing and emerging as the heart of FSU’s national championship team.
“What he represents, the leadership he had, and the attitude he brought was an amazing thing,” Fisher said.
Following a team-high 15 tackles in the BCS National Championship Game, Smith went on to become a fifth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And, despite critics who questioned whether he was big enough to be an NFL linebacker, Smith has thrived at the professional level.
He has started each of the last three seasons in Jacksonville, has twice earned AFC defensive player of the week honors and last year cracked the NFL’s annual Top 100 Players countdown at No. 83.
More important, though, is what Smith has brought to the Jaguars’ locker room. Smith’s success and accountability on the field earned the respect of his more veteran teammates, and, granted a voice in the huddle, he made waves last spring by calling a players-only meeting to set the tone for the season ahead.
Smith said his time at FSU laid the foundation for him to become a cornerstone of Jacksonville’s roster.
“The way I practiced here, the way I held guys accountable, that leadership that I started here, it really built me to stand in front of a locker room of NFL guys, millionaires, and to be able to command and demand the same respect,” he said.
No wonder that Fisher was glad to have Smith deliver his message to the current Seminoles. This year’s FSU team, while loaded with talent, is looking for a new wave of leaders to break through after the departures of Dalvin Cook, DeMarcus Walker and Marquez White.
“He was a leader,” Fisher said. “And he didn’t care if you liked him or not, he wasn’t there to be liked. He was there to win and do the right thing, but he was always a good teammate and they loved him for it. Trying to get those (current) guys to understand, it was great he was around today.”
Making his way around the practice fields, Smith liked what he saw from the Seminoles.
And he can’t help but feel like things are aligning for FSU the same way they did when the Seminoles made their national title run in 2013.
Smith even pointed out that the Seminoles enter this season coming off a victory in the Orange Bowl. Same as they did in 2013.
“I’m not even going to bring up the talent, because you see that,” Smith said. “It’s Florida State. There’s always talent. It’s just the understanding now that these guys are starting grasp what it takes.
“And, man, some of the components that we had in 2013, I’m starting to see right here.”