Two seasons, 33.5 sacks.
It's an impressive frame of mind when you consider the starting outside linebacker’s 33.5 sacks are the most by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound linebacker reached the mark by passing Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White’s 31 sacks.
Smith isn’t satisfied with his instant production which includes totaling the most sacks in consecutive seasons by any player in 49ers history. Smith also won the team's coveted Bill Walsh Award, given to the team's Most Valuable Player. Although he earned first-team All-Pro honors and was selected to his first Pro Bowl, San Francisco’s third-year linebacker is eager to showcase more of his talents.
How can he do that?
“By improving off last year,” Smith said after the first day of 49ers Organized Team Activities. “My rookie year I did alright. I came in next year and did better so I’ve got to do the same thing this year coming up, just keep getting better and not take any steps back.”
Smith went from 14.0 sacks as a rookie to a single-season, franchise record, 19.5 sacks as a sophomore. Smith finished with the most sacks in the NFC and second-most in the NFL behind J.J. Watt’s 20.5 sacks. He also donated $5,099 for each of his regular season sacks to the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco and East Palo Alto.
Even more impressive, Smith totaled his 19.5 sacks in San Francisco’s first 13 games of 2012. The mark stands as the most sacks through a team’s first 13 games in NFL history.
Smith remained a valuable contributor in San Francisco's Super Bowl run despite playing through a shoulder injury which lingered into the postseason.
Even so, Smith had time to do light Mixed Martial Arts training this offseason with an emphasis to improve his cardio. The 49ers linebacker plans to utilize various training methods like MMA throughout his football career.
“It was helpful,” Smith said. “I didn’t do it as much as I wanted to at the time, but I’ll work myself back into that.”
For now, Smith can’t help but notice the rookie lockers filling up the walking space in the team’s locker room. The third-year pro and No. 7 overall draft pick didn’t have OTAs as a rookie due to the league’s work stoppage in 2011, but he can still relate to what the newcomers are experiencing this offseason with the 49ers.
“It’s cool seeing everyone come in and figure it out,” Smith said. “That’s where you were three years ago, so it’s cool to help them through it.”
Smith is growing with his experience as an outside linebacker, too. He played defensive end in college at Missouri, but feels more comfortable with the variety of roles he can play in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
Smith now feels he can provide even more to the 49ers defense.
“I’m able to try and get the best out of everything I can offer,” he said.
If that means being more of a leader, Smith is fine with that.
“It’s something I’ve always tried to do,” the 2012 team MVP said. “Vocal is not yelling, I’ve been cool with everybody so if I saw something, I’d open my mouth about it and people would listen.
“I’m trying to continue that and keep my leadership role up.”
And while Smith feels more like a veteran in the 49ers locker room, he doesn’t feel the need to call out opposing pass rushers for sport. Smith has previously talked about sack competitions with fellow third-year linebacker Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, but those conversations have quieted down now that they’re entering year three of promising professional careers in their respective cities.
“We don’t even talk about that,” Smith said of his close friend. “We talk about our lives and make sure we’re all good. We don’t talk about sacks.”
Smith and Miller might avoid sack banter, but there will likely be some back-and-forth when both players learn of their rankings in the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2013 list.
Smith has shot promotional interviews for other players in the top 100 and expects to be on the list in 2013 which unveils 10 players at a time in weekly installments.
“I don’t know where I’m at, but for me being on the list it’s a good feeling,” the 49ers linebacker said. “They left me hanging last year, it should be interesting to see where I’m at this year.”
Smith continues to be an interesting personality in the 49ers locker room. If his play didn’t stand out enough, he was sporting a new haircut with a white headband after Tuesday's practice.
“It’s the Jheri curl,” Smith said with a grin. “I’m rocking this.”