BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – At the end of his second season in the NFL, just days after his 24th birthday, Torrey Smith stood on the floor of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a shower of confetti washing over him and his Baltimore Ravens teammates, winners of Super Bowl XLVII.
He started every game that season, and led the Ravens in touchdowns, playing through pain after losing his brother in a motorcycle accident in September of that season.
A lot has happened in the five years since.
He spent two more seasons in Baltimore, making one more playoff appearance, and then signed a five-year contract with the 49ers, winning a combined seven games in two seasons, and released last March.
His numbers went down, bottoming out last year, when he had just 20 catches for 267 yards and three touchdowns for the two-win Niners, one of the worst offenses in the league in 2016.
He’s been healthy, or at least as healthy as an NFL player can be, so at least there wasn’t a setback like that to fight through, but on and off the field, things could have been a lot better.
Not long after being cut by San Francisco, Smith was offered a three-year contract to join the Philadelphia Eagles, and maybe no coincidentally, things have been on an upswing since.
“I mean just everything,” he said on Tuesday during the Eagles’ media access period. “You know, I feel like, my past few years haven’t gone the way I wanted on the field, off the field, I’ve had things in my personal life that weren’t going the way I wanted things to be, and to be here now, just, even through every low, that’s probably meant more to me than anything, to grow as a man and mature as a player, and I’m just thankful that I have the opportunity to be here in Philadelphia right now, which is a huge part of that growth.”
Asked if there’s anything he feels comfortable revealing about the strife of the last several years, Smith said, “You can watch ‘em on the field…I’m a man beyond the field, we have issues like everyone else in our personal lives, and I’m just – one day it’s going to be a great testimony and I’m thankful to be where I am.”
While the road has been bumpy between Super Bowl appearances, Smith never thought of walking away from the game. He understands, though, those like his teammate Nick Foles, who had struggled so mightily in the years following his stunning 2013 season that he seriously contemplated giving up football.
“I wasn’t that bad – not to say it like that. Not to say it like that,” he said, realizing how he might come across. “But I remember when I first came here, just talking with Foles about how taxing it can be in this game, in this sport, like you put so much into it and you want to succeed so bad, and when things aren’t going your way, whether it’s from outside sources or yourself, it’s tough.
“You put your heart in it, and everything you do is like – you know how much goes into your heart to be ready for a game? And to work the way you do and to not have that type of success, it’s stressful. And I see why a lot of guys struggle with mental issues, because some guys, their whole identity is wrapped up in football. I’m not that guy, but I can relate to the stress of that, so for me, talking with Foles and the way his journey has been, I think it’s almost perfect.
“I feel like every man in this locker room is there for a reason and I feel like I needed to know Nick Foles. I needed to know what he’s been through and how he was able to overcome it. I needed to meet young Carson Wentz to know they type of growth he (has had) as a man, as a leader.”
Smith believes every member of the Eagles’ roster was brought to Philadelphia for a reason, and says it’s a tight-knit group that always thinks team first, before self. The defensive players get together every week for some kind of event, and the receivers have had frequent dinners. It’s a credit to the front office and general manager Howie Roseman, he said, that there are no egos, just everyone working toward the same goal.
Five years later, just days after his 29th birthday, Smith is back at the Super Bowl, fully appreciative of every bump and divot and detour.
“This time around, it’s just way sweeter. There’s been a lot of highs and lows for me, especially the past few years haven’t really gone the way I wanted them to, so to be in this position I’m just thankful,” he said. “Everything kind of worked out the way that I imagined it happening, being in this position, and I wouldn’t change a single thing along the way.
“We have to bring it home. This isn’t a field trip; we understand that, so to be in this position now, we have to win. It’s that simple. We dream about it, and you know it’s not going to be easy, but we know why we’re here.”