Kirby Smart says he turned down a pro football opportunity and the importance of relationships

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ATHENS — Kirby Smart doesn’t try to glorify his Georgia football career, and in fact, he often downplays how good he was with the Bulldogs.

Smart, a 1998 All-SEC pick who ranks sixth all-time in the UGA football record books with 13 career steals, led the Bulldogs in steals in 1997 with five, and in 1998 with six when he also served as team captain. .

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To put that into perspective, none of the Georgia players Smart has signed since becoming head coach in 2016 has eclipsed his numbers, even though he has recruited and developed several current NFL defensive backs.

Smart’s NFL career was short-lived, and he seems to enjoy the self-deprecating nature of his brief time after signing with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent in 1999 and going through mini-camp. of April of the team.

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In one of Smart’s speeches at the UGA business school, from 2018, the Georgia head coach talked about how important relationships are to the game, even when players aren’t practicing. with a program.

Or, in Smart’s case, with an NFL team.

“That guy who cut me, Vic Fangio, he (was) the defensive coordinator for the Colts,” Smart said, referring to a coach who was recently fired after two seasons as the Broncos’ head coach. Denver.

“I’m going to the Colts, man, I don’t belong in the Colts. Peyton Manning is over there setting me on fire, beating me up, I grab Marvin Harrison, and I’m like, ‘Man, what am I doing?’

“Yeah, I haven’t seen that kind of speed fly near me in ages.”

Smart had a pretty good idea of ​​what was next.

“(Fangio) called me up and said, ‘You’re not going to make it. You’re probably better off, and he asked a guy to come talk to me and was like, ‘Is that would you go to NFL Europe and play here?’ “

Clever, saying indicated he wasn’t paying much attention.

“If you’re playing in NFL Europe, you have to come right back after a 12-game season and go to camp with the NFL team,” Smart explained.

“I had seen these guys coming from overseas and they were beaten up, tired, and I said, ‘No, it’s not for me, I’m going straight to training. “

Smart noted that just before his speech, Fangio called him on the phone of former Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith before the Chicago Bears recruited him.

“He said, ‘I want to know what you think of this young man,’ Smart said. ‘And I’m thinking, ‘That’s the guy who cut me 20 years ago.'”

The point was – and is – that relationships in football matter.

Ironically, it is now Smart who is a successful head coach on the verge of signing a $100 million contract, while Fangio is unemployed.

Safe to say that if Fangio needed a favor, Smart would be there, as he proved by signing several of his old football friends, like new analyst Mike Bobo.

RELATED: Kirby Smart happy to have his old pal Mike Bobo as a golf partner

Smart said in an off-season interview that Bobo is one of his golf partners and he likes having former offensive coordinator Mark Richt and UGA quarterback.

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