Tanzel Smart, other Tulane hopefuls aimed to impress during Pro Day

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METAIRIE — Former Tulane defensive tackle Tanzel Smart went to the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

On Friday, the scouts came to Smart and several of his Green Wave teammates.

Smart was one of nine Tulane players to participate in the school’s Pro Day at the New Orleans Saints indoor facility. Scouts from a dozen or so NFL teams put the Green Wave players and others from Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State through a similar evaluation to the one at the annual Combine in Indianapolis.

“I think I got all my jitters out at the Combine,” Smart said. “When I woke up this morning I was feeling comfortable and I was excited to come over here and do everything.”

Smart, 6-foot-1, 296 pounds, is the only Green Wave player projected to be selected in the draft, but the others at Friday’s workout were trying to grab the attention of scouts as potential free-agent signees if they don’t get selected. The draft is scheduled for April 27-29.

“Size was always a question,” Smart said, “but I feel like I answered that question well when I went to the Senior Bowl and showcased my talent.”

Smart started for the South team in the Senior Bowl and played in all four quarters. He made two tackles and played on the field goal block team. He’s trying to allay concerns about not only his relatively small size but also concerns about the relatively small size of the Green Wave football program.

“Just because you’re coming from Tulane,” Smart said, “it doesn’t mean you can’t do everything that everybody else does.”

Smart said he was “comfortable” having teammates alongside him Friday and his teammates appreciated the scouting report he gave them on the workout after being the only Green Wave player to participate in the Combine.

“Tanzel has been a great help,” former Tulane linebacker Nico Marley said. “He’s always positive. He just let us know how it was going to roll through, what to expect, what drills we’d do.”

Marley (5-8, 181), like Smart, is used to questions about his size. Since the end of the season he has been learning to play safety, realizing he’s more likely to get a professional opportunity there.

He called that decision “opening every lane.”

“I feel comfortable wherever they put me,” Marley said. “I just wanted to show them that I can do everything. Everything is on film. I think I did everything I could on film. The film doesn’t lie. All they have to do is turn it on.

“Linebacker is home. At safety I had a rough start (Friday) but I bounced back and felt good at the end. I felt like I finished strong.”

For former Green Wave running back Lazedrick Thompson (6-0, 219), unlike Smart and Marley, size is not an issue. He said he has received encouragement from former Tulane running back Robert Kelley, who went undrafted last year, signed with the Redskins, made the roster, and rushed for more than 700 yards.

“He just said keep on working,” said Henderson, added that Kelley gave him tips on his footwork and pass catching.

The other former Tulane players to participate Friday were wide receivers Devon Breaux and Larry Dace III, tackle Todd Jacquet, running back Josh Rounds, guard Chris Taylor, and linebacker Eric Thomas.

The players will continue to work for another three weeks to prepare for the drafting and signing period for NFL teams.

“It’s kind of surreal because I’ve been dreaming since I was a little kid for this moment and just waiting on the Senior Bowl, Combine and Pro Day,” Smart said. “Now it’s just keep grinding away and pray. That’s all I can do now.”

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Les East

Les East

SportsNOLA/WHNO-TV/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renown freelance journalist. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

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