Those strengths enabled him to become a three-time all-state performer at Highland Park High School in New Jersey. It also made it possible for the former two-way standout, at running back and linebacker, to escape the shadow of having a successful older brother.
L.J. Smith was the Eagles' second-round draft pick in 2003. After his six-year career in Philadelphia, the tight end played one season for the Baltimore Ravens.
"People didn't compare us," Smith said of their Highland Park careers, "because we played two different positions, and I played with a lot more intensity and aggressiveness than he did.
"He was quiet and he made plays, constantly. But I was always yelling and making plays all over the place."
Unlike his older brother, who played college ball at Rutgers, Smith wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school. Temple was the lone Football Bowl Subdivision program to offer him a scholarship.
His failing to meet the necessary NCAA academic standards might have scared off some schools.
But Smith said Temple never wavered, even when he spent a postgraduate year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia to meet the NCAA's academic requirements.
"I'm glad they stuck with me," Smith said of the Owls. "That's what motivated me a lot when I was at the prep school. I made sure I got my grades and was eligible to come here."
He arrived at North Broad Street last summer and redshirted the 2011 season. Now, Smith, who was known primarily as a seek-and-destroy type of player, is focusing on playing more under control. And he's turning heads in the process.
Contact Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pompeysgridlock Read his blog at www.philly.com/OwlsInq.