There’s a reputation in the league that follows the Jaguars defense. Tough, talking, swagger, fast and relentless. They’ve put up historic numbers this season. While that’s the exterior, the public persona, the spirit and emotion of that side of the football is embodied in Linebacker Telvin Smith.
A fifth-round pick out of Florida State, Smith looks more like a safety than a linebacker. He runs more like a cornerback than a linebacker. But he hits and thinks like a linebacker.
“He’s a natural-born leader,” said defensive lineman Calais Campbell. “He’s very gifted in his ability to inspire. He’s the guy who breaks it down before we go on the football field. Every time he’s getting us hyped, I’m ready to run through a wall. He has that natural gift of gab to inspire people. I love being a teammate of his. He’s a great player.”
For all of his physical gifts, it’s Smith who spoke up early in his career saying guys weren’t giving enough. He’s the player who came into the locker room during training camp and told his teammates they needed to be better. He’s the one who speaks to the team on Saturday nights. And he’s the guy who makes that speech on the field, known as “breaking it down” after warm-ups on Sunday and right before the game. Some of it’s funny, some of it’s R-rated but all of it is authentic. And it works.
“I talk to guys all throughout the week,” Smith said at a press conference at the stadium on Thursday. “That’s what I kind of get it from. Whatever guys are talking about, whatever I see going on throughout the building and in the media. Whatever it is, I take it from everywhere and kind ofâ€¦I’m preparing all week for my guys.”
So he’s a motivational speaker? That’s not how he sees it.
“In that sense, I would call myself an enlightenment speaker because if you need to be motivated then we lost already.”
It’s that kind of perspective that draws his teammates to Smith as a leader. He’s a captain on the defense, and is as “real” as it gets. When asked right after the game Sunday in the locker room about the pointing and the unsportsmanlike penalty he caused last week against Pittsburgh he was unapologetic. He said, “I was pointing at Le’Veon. We have the same agent. I wanted him to know I was scoring on him.”
Today, after the league levied a fine, Smith took a u-turn and during his press conference wanted to address what happened in a playful way.
“That’s what’s crazy,” he said with his trademark smile. “Let me talk to the cameras. NFL, please listen. I am sorry. I got the fine today. I apologize. I take the point back, the taunting. I’m a great player. I assure from now on.”
How big was the fine?
“It was big. Like $10,000. What a point.”
After signing a new, big contract before the season, Smith was teased by his teammates as is bound to happen in any locker room. He took it in stride, and laughed along with some of the other big-money free agents who were added to the team. He knows that the money can’t get in the way of production and being part of an eleven-man solution.
“They talk about the offense because they put up points. The most heralded guys on the field are the quarterbacks. So I would say nine times out of 10 your detail goes into your offensive planning and things like that. Offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. I’m happy I’m on the defensive side.”
And about the free agents they added in the offseason?
“Your question answers your question. It just shows that the organization is trying to build and go in that right direction. It shows obviously that it worked. You spend that money and you see what happens. You get in these situations.”
Barring injury, Telvin will be around a long time, contributing to his team with his play and his speech, all not lost on Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash.
“The leadership with Calais (Campbell) and Malik (Jackson) is unmatched,” Wash said today. “In the back end, we have (Barry) Church and in the second level we have Telvin (Smith). That leadership is going to be big. Overall, we’re young but we have some great leaders and those leaders are going to take us as far as we can.”