Of all the players in Mankato, it's tough to pick one with more Pro Bowl or All-Pro breakout potential than safety Harrison Smith.
He’s the rare safety with the skills and instincts to play deep, at the line of scrimmage and rushing the quarterback.
He’s also smart. Smart enough to not give a group of reporters exact figures while talking about what he calls his “pretty outrageous goals” that he sets for himself every year. Smart enough to know that if he were to do that, that figure would go onto the national NFL loop and be used to beat him over the head with continuously if he doesn’t progress toward reaching it.
“Every year, I write down goals,” said Smith, the 2012 first-round pick who led the team in tackles (107) and was the only player in the league with at least three sacks and three interceptions a year ago.
“I don't hit them every time but I think it just gives you something to mentally shoot for and kind of keeps you progressing towards something. I like to reach for some pretty outrageous goals, so last year I probably hit under half of them.”
Asked for an example, Smith said, “A certain number of interceptions, number of tackles. Always number one is play in every game. If you can check that off that’s a good one right there. Just down the line, just stats and stuff, which doesn't necessarily win you games but I think it just keeps myself held to a higher standard.”
Smith said there “a lot of things” he’s looking to improve on this year.
“Really things in every area,” he said. “One for example would be becoming a better blitzer, getting better pressure on the quarterback when I get a chance to go. You can improve on in every area especially myself. There’s too many areas to list but definitely a lot of things come to mind.”
Smith also showed he’s adept at handling questions about high expectations for the team this season.
“We have been hearing rumblings of how good we can be all offseason and that is something coach [Mike] Zimmer addressed early,” Smith said. “I think we are all pretty grounded guys, hardworking guys. That's all we're focused on. Can't win the Super Bowl today. Can’t make the playoffs today. Can't win the division today.
“You just get better each day at a time. I know that’s a boring answer but that’s just the truth.”
This morning's walk-through starts at 10:30 and lasts an hour before media access begins. We'll be back with more updates.