For years, Sean McDermott has heard about the leadership and mentoring ability of tight end Lee Smith.
This year, McDermott gets to see it up close after the Bills signed Smith in May. So far?
“Everything has been as advertised.”
The two rookies who share a position group with Smith would agree.
“He’s incredible,” Dawson Knox said. “That’s one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in the league. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of vets helping younger guys and having guys really show us the ropes. Lee’s been a big answered prayer.”
“He’s a second coach in the tight ends room,” Tommy Sweeney said. “He’s been the best at what he’s done for the ninth year now. He’s a wealth of knowledge. He’s seen everything, done everything. He’s an extremely smart guy.”
Smith knows, as a tenured vet, teams will “take care” of him. He gets “veteran rest days” and latitude to free lance a bit in practice because coaches are confident Smith knows his job.
It’s a privilege he does not want to waste.
“I think it’s my responsibility to pour into those young players and give them every bit of myself that I possibly can,” Smith said.
This is Smith’s second tour of duty with the Bills (2011-15) and he counts Kyle Williams among the greats that guided him when he was new in the NFL.
Sweeney is so blown away by Smith’s knowledge and his willingness to pass it on, he could not put his finger on one lesson that’s been the greatest assist.
Knox does have a nugget of advice he carries around with him.
“He went into pretty good length about ‘always be confident in what you’re doing. You’re here for a reason. They brought you here. They want you here’,” Knox said. “Don’t ever think that you’re not good enough.”
Smith appreciates McDermott’s admiration of his skills as a leader. He’s impressed with the way the Bills head coach goes about building a team.
“That’s how you win games when you have four turnovers,” Smith said. “You’re not just collecting talent. You’re building a team. As long as everyone is out for each other, that’s how you win in this league.”
Knox and Sweeney have quickly become best friends and are actually roommates. Knox says that the competition between the two has been good. It’s helped make both of them better.
“It’s been awesome to have a guy the same age to come in together and learn with,” Knox said.
Smith is keenly aware of how fortunate someone must be to play nine seasons in the NFL and wants to do his best to make sure Knox and Sweeney have the same chance.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let those two kids, those two men, look in the mirror one day and think, ‘Man, if I just had a veteran around me to show me the way, I would have made it’,” Smith said.
“No way, not on my watch.”