Irish In The NFL: Tight End Durham Smythe Establishes Himself In The Pros
With his right hand on the turf, Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe positioned himself as an in-line blocker at the North Carolina State 20-yard line. His responsibility? Complete the difficult task of sealing Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb, a soon-to-be top-five NFL Draft pick and one of college football’s best all-around defenders in 2017.
Once the ball was snapped, Smythe shot off the line and got his hands inside of Chubb, turned him 90 degrees, and opened up a lane for Josh Adams for a 10-yard gain off the right edge.
On that late-October afternoon in 2017, No. 9 Notre Dame would go on to a convincing 35-14 win over No. 14 North Carolina State, with much of the credit going to Adams, who ran for 202 yards and a touchdown, as well as a Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line.
But Smythe’s willingness and desire to do the dirty work was an integral part of the Fighting Irish offense that day, as well as the rest of the season.
In preparing for the 2018 NFL Draft, scouts would look at that game when evaluating Smythe’s potential. It helped that he led all Notre Dame receivers against the Wolfpack with three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown, but Smythe’s NFL projection was never to be like Travis Kelce from the Kansas City Chiefs or any other of the prolific pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.
But maneuvering a player of Chubb’s caliber in a one-on-one matchup? That was more than enough for him to be drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round.
Thus far, he’s turned his reputation as an intelligent and hard-nosed in-line blocker into 22 starts two and a half seasons into his professional career.
Even after hauling in his first NFL touchdown reception in week six of the 2020 season, Smythe’s perception of his role on the team never wavered. He appreciated the recognition he received in the box score, but he’s never been enamored with making the flashy play.
“My game, since I've been at Notre Dame and in the league the last three years, is doing the dirty work, being that type of guy,” Smythe said a few weeks after his touchdown reception. “That’s my MO. I enjoy doing it, and that'll be my lead role going forward.”
Yet fans don’t always understand the value of a player with Smythe’s abilities. Blocking tight ends don’t often receive nine-figure contracts like offensive tackles do for also stone-walling defense ends. Nor do they get headlines for putting up 1,000-yard receiver seasons, which flex-tight ends such as Kelce are lauded for.
Smythe’s father, Roy, played offensive line at Baylor in the early 1980s. His next step in life was medical school, but his experiences playing the game at a high level enables him to understand the nuances of Smythe’s role within the Miami offense.
“Durham always tells me not to look at Twitter, and I don’t have a Twitter account, but when I see all the fantasy fans bashing him for not being ‘more productive,’ it is frustrating,” Roy Smythe said. “Everybody doesn't have the same perspective, I guess.”
Nine games into the season, Smythe has nine receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns, but even after playing through a few injuries he’s started six games and played more than 50 percent of the offensive snaps for an on-the-rise Dolphins franchise with a 6-3 record midway through the season.
Smythe credits his ability to quickly adjust to the NFL lifestyle, in part, to his time in South Bend.
“No stage is too big at this level, especially after playing Notre Dame Stadium and in all the venues that we played in while I was there,” Smythe said. “It almost feels like, at least from an atmosphere standpoint, that Notre Dame was the biggest stage you can be on.
“You never have to think about the stage being too big. You can just go out there and play and once you adjust to the speed of the game, everything kind of runs smoothly.”
Notre Dame played a large role in Smythe’s development both on and off the field, but he was actually initially committed to Texas before reconsidering his options and flipping to the Fighting Irish late in his senior year.
Still, even as a young boy growing up near Austin and with no connections to Notre Dame, Smythe always expressed an affinity for the Fighting Irish — one his own family never fully understood.
“Everyone watches Notre Dame on NBC every week, so I already knew about the program,” Smythe said. “I was actually on the U.S. News & World Report university rankings as a third or fourth grader and saw that Notre Dame was in the top 15 and that's kind of where the fandom started, and it grew from there.”
Former Notre Dame Football Players In The NFL: Week 10 Recap
• Josh Adams (Played at Notre Dame from 2015-17), RB, New York Jets: The 0-9 Jets had a bye … Has three carries for eight yards and a touchdown in two games played this season.
• Alex Bars (2014-18), OL, Chicago Bears: A week after starting at center, he played left guard in the 5-5 Bears’ 19-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
• Asmar Bilal (2015-19), LB, Los Angeles Chargers: Put on injured reserve more than a month ago and did not play in the 2-7 Chargers’ 29-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
• Miles Boykin (2015-18), WR, Baltimore Ravens: Started in the 6-3 Ravens’ 23-17 loss to the New England Patriots … Has 14 receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown on the season.
• Chase Claypool (2016-19), WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Was targeted 10 times and had four catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns in the 9-0 Steelers’ 36-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals … Also carried the ball twice for a loss of three yards … On the season, he has 35 catches for 500 yards and seven touchdowns (tied for sixth in NFL), nine carries for 22 yards and two scores, and five special teams tackles.
• Sheldon Day (2012-15), DL, Indianapolis Colts: Notched one tackle in 6-3 Indianapolis’ 34-17 win over the Tennessee Titans … Spent the start of the season on injured reserve and has two tackles and one pass defended.
• Tyler Eifert (2009-12), TE, Jacksonville Jaguars: Recorded two catches for 15 yards in the 1-8 Jaguars’ 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers … On the season, he has 17 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown.
• Matthias Farley (2011-15), DB, New York Jets: The 0-9 Jets had a bye … Has logged six stops through nine games.
• Will Fuller V (2013-15), WR, Houston Texans: Snagged five catches for 38 yards in 2-7 Houston’s 10-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns … Has 41 grabs for 628 yards (18th in the NFL) and six touchdowns this season (tied for eighth).
• Alohi Gilman (2017-19), S, Los Angeles Chargers: Played special teams in the 2-7 Chargers’ 29-21 loss to the Dolphins … Has two tackles on the season.
• J.J. Jansen (2004-07), LS, Carolina Panthers: Played special teams in the 3-7 Panthers’ 46-23 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Long snapper J.J. Jansen representing the Panthers for the coin toss today. Usually is LB Shaq Thompson. Last week it was LB Tahir Whitehead.— Alaina Getzenberg (@agetzenberg) November 15, 2020
• Bennett Jackson Jr. (2009-13), DB, New York Jets: The 0-9 Jets had bye ... In one game this season, has one tackle on special teams.
• Khalid Kareem (2016-19), DE, Cincinnati Bengals: Recorded three tackles (one for loss) in the 2-6-1 Bengals’ loss 36-10 loss to the Steelers … Has recorded 12 tackles (one for loss) through nine games.
• Cole Kmet (2017-19), TE, Chicago Bears: Hauled in one catch for seven yards and notched a tackle on special teams in the 5-5 Bears’ 19-13 loss to the Vikings … On the season, he has seven catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, plus one tackle.
• Julian Love (2015-18), DB, New York Giants: Posted three stops in 3-7 New York’s 27-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles … On the season, he has 38 tackles (one for loss), two passes defended and a pick.
• Nick Martin (2011-15), OL, Houston Texans: Started at center in the 2-7 Texans’ 10-7 loss to the Browns.
• Zack Martin (2009-13), OL, Dallas Cowboys: The 2-7 Cowboys had a bye.
• Mike McGlinchey (2013-17), OL, San Francisco 49ers: Started at right tackle in 4-6 San Francisco’s 27-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
• Quenton Nelson (2014-17), OL, Indianapolis Colts: Started at left guard in the 6-3 Colts’ 34-17 win over the Titans ... Named to the PFF Team of the Week.
• Sam Mustipher (2014-18), OL, Chicago Bears: After starting at center two weeks ago, missed the 5-5 Bears’ 19-13 loss to the Vikings due to a knee injury.
• Julian Okwara (2016-19), DE, Detroit Lions: Placed on injured reserve several weeks ago and did not play in the 4-5 Lions’ 30-27 win over the Washington Football Team.
• Romeo Okwara (2012-15), DE, Detroit Lions: Recorded four tackles (one for loss), a sack and a quarterback hit in the 4-5 Lions’ 30-27 win over the Washington Football Team … On the season, he has 27 tackles (eight for loss), six sacks (13th in NFL), 12 quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a pass defended.
• Troy Pride Jr. (2016-19), CB, Carolina Panthers: Notched seven tackles (half a tackle for loss) in 3-7 Carolina’s 46-23 loss to the Buccaneers … On the season, has 36 tackles (1.5 for loss) and a pass defended.
Ronald Jones reached a top speed of 21.19 MPH on this 98-yard TD run, fast enough to run away from #21 Jeremy Chinn (22.09 MPH) and #25 Troy Pride (22.40 MPH) in pursuit.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 15, 2020
Rushing Yards: 98
Expected Yards: 4
Yards Over Expected: +94*
*Most in NFL this season#TBvsCAR | #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/UskpeAI2t2
• C.J. Prosise (2012-15), RB, Houston Texans: Returned to the active roster and grabbed one reception for a loss of two yards in the 2-7 Texans’ 10-7 loss to the Browns … Also returned two kickoffs for a total of 39 yards … On the season, has one carry for one yard and one reception for a loss of two yards.
• Theo Riddick (2009-12), RB, Las Vegas Raiders: Inactive and did not play in the 6-3 Raiders’ 37-12 win over the Broncos … On the season, has two carries for 13 yards.
• Isaac Rochell (2013-16), DE, Los Angeles Chargers: Record one tackle in the 2-7 Chargers’ 29-21 loss to the Dolphins … Has 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks on the season.
• Kyle Rudolph (2008-10), TE, Minnesota Vikings: Snagged four catches for 63 yards and a lost fumble in the 4-5 Vikings’ 19-13 win over the Bears … On the season, he has 19 receptions for 230 yards and a touchdown.
• Harrison Smith (2007-11), S, Minnesota Vikings: Recorded two passes defended, a quarterback hit and an interception in the 4-5 Vikings’ 19-13 win over the Bears … On the season, he has 43 tackles (two for loss), six passes defended, three quarterback hits and three picks (tied for sixth in NFL).
• Jaylon Smith (2013-15), LB, Dallas Cowboys: The 2-7 Cowboys had a bye … On the season, he has 89 tackles (fifth in the NFL), six tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks and three passes defended.
• Durham Smythe (2013-17), TE, Miami Dolphins: Notched two catches for nine yards and a touchdown in the 6-3 Dolphins’ 29-21 win over the Chargers … On the season, he has nine receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
• Equanimeous St. Brown (2015-17), WR, Green Bay Packers: Played offense and special teams in the 7-2 Packers’ 24-20 win over the Jaguars … On the season, has one catch for 12 yards and one tackle on special teams.
• Ronnie Stanley (2012-15), OL, Baltimore Ravens: After signing a five-year, $98.75 million contract extension on Oct. 30, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
• Golden Tate (2007-09), WR, New York Giants: Snagged two catches for 44 yards in the 3-7 Giants’ 27-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles … On the season, he has 24 catches for 270 yards and two touchdowns … Also has thrown one pass for 18 yards, plus recorded one tackle.
• Jerry Tillery (2015-18), DL, Los Angeles Chargers: Recorded two tackles in the 2-7 Chargers’ 29-21 loss to the Dolphins … On the season, he has 15 total stops, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, eight quarterback hits, a forced fumble and one pass defended.
• Drue Tranquill (2014-18), LB, Los Angeles Chargers: Broke his ankle in week one and is out indefinitely … Has one tackle this season.
• Stephon Tuitt (2011-13), DL, Pittsburgh Steelers: Recorded two tackles in the 9-0 Steelers’ 36-10 victory versus the Bengals … On the season, has 32 tackles (nine for loss), six sacks (13th in NFL) and 18 quarterback hits.
• Sam Young (2006-10), OT, Las Vegas Raiders: Started in the 6-3 Raiders’ 37-12 win over the Denver Broncos but left in the second half with a knee injury … Has played in seven games this season, starting five.
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