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IOWA CITY — Brandon Smith locked his arms and swung them in a lifting motion twice before taking the leap.
The video of Smith's leap, in real-time or slow-motion, was plastered across Twitter timelines during the House of Athlete Combine on March 5. He jumps, knocks a few plastic notches off the Vertec and a crowd behind him erupts as he lands on his feet one at a time before facing it.
The measurement was 44 inches and, according to senior NFL writer Trevor Sikkema of The Draft Network, the leap would've been the fourth-highest at the NFL combine since 1999, and second-highest at last year's event.
'Since I was a kid, I used to jump off a bunch of stuff just being a bad kid,' Smith said after Iowa's Pro Day on Monday. 'I high jumped in high school and everything and, of course, I work on a lot of the lower-body stuff as well.'
Smith was one of five Iowa football players invited to the NFL's proverbial combine this season, which did not happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also was one of two Hawkeye wide receivers to receive the invite, joining Ihmir Smith-Marsette. If drafted, it'll be the first time since Marvin McNutt went in the sixth round in 2012 that an Iowa wide receiver is selected in the NFL Draft.
Only three wide receivers have been drafted during head coach Kirk Ferentz's tenure at Iowa.
'It's hard, I had to fight the stigma,' McNutt said. 'I feel like that was maybe a piece of why I wasn't drafted high. You don't get the same respect sometimes coming from other schools, but luckily I had the numbers.'
McNutt graduated with 2,861 career receiving yards, including 1,315 in one season. Smith is leaving Iowa with 1,046 receiving yards while Smith-Marsette had 1,615 receiving and 1,520 off kick returns. So where the two have to make up to compete in a class with players like LSU's Jamarr Chase, Alabama's Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle is at opportunities like Pro Day or other combine-like events.
It didn't help Smith that he played a shortened final season without a bowl game.
'I was disappointed I wasn't able to go to Indy and perform there,' Smith said. 'I didn't have the biggest season last year. But ideally, I just wanted to show that I'm a team guy, but the little spurts of athleticism that I did show, I just made sure that I capitalize on that.'
Smith-Marsette knows his value to NFL scouts is advertising his abilities in special teams as a prominent kick returner. He ranks second all-time in the Big Ten in average kick return yards (28.7).
'I feel like that'll be my first role earned at the next level,' Smith-Marsette said. 'One day potentially working into the offense.'
Both players were honored to make the list of invites to the NFL Combine because it was a sign they are at least in the top 323 prospects being considered. The two complemented each other well at Iowa, with Smith-Marsette being the speedy target and Smith adding value with strong hands, leaping ability and blocking power.
'I mean if you really watch the kid from Alabama (Smith), Smith-Marsette plays similarly,' McNutt said. 'If you put him in an offense like that, he really lists himself with those guys. That's how you look at it from the NFL standpoint.'
Ferentz said it's not all about the stats in the NFL.
'I was just showing one of our younger players the film of two receivers to play for the 49ers a while ago,' Ferentz said. 'Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State) and John Taylor (Delaware State) are two of the greatest ever ... It's really not about where you go to score, what your stats (are). It's about how you play football, and smart NFL people know that these guys have had plenty of opportunity on field play against good competition.'
At Monday's event, Smith-Marsette weighed in at 181 pounds and stood at 6 feet, 0.5 inches. His 40-yard dash was a 4.43 and 20-yard shuttle clocked in at 4.2. He lept 10 feet, 4 inches in the broad jump.
At 6 feet and 1.5 inches, Smith weighed 218 and lept 39.5 inches in the vertical jump, 10 feet, 10 inches in the broad jump.
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